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Okanagan Winery Shuts Down
Overnight Propane Cannons
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Updated Conclusions: its the end of January, 2003, and our favourite BC winery is no longer using propane cannons overnight to keep elk out of their ice wine vineyard. They are now using silent alternatives. Our new friends and "Ban the Cannons" supporters in Summerland are elated and wish to pass on their best wishes to all members of our group in the Fraser Valley.

So what did we learn while helping the residents of Summerland battle a stubborn noise polluter? We learned plenty.

The main lesson learned was, and in reality we probably knew this all along, that our BC Ministry of Agriculture will do nothing to help residents when dealing with propane cannon noise pollution. They will wade into the issue, they will stall, they will pontificate, they will act as a go between, but they will do nothing! The Minister himself has said on more than one occasion that overnight propane cannon use will not be tolerated, but when it mattered he would not lift a finger to help the residents in Summerland.

We also learned that there is really nowhere in government for residents to turn. Municipal governments may try to be of help, but as we are finding in Abbotsford they can be pressured and overruled by our Provincial Government.

So where does that leave us? How did we force this winery to shut down its overnight propane cannons, and what are we going to do about propane cannons used by blueberry growers............stay tuned!
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It is January 9th today, and this morning we checked with our friend in Summerland and he confirmed that our favourite BC winery has stopped firing their overnight propane cannons. It appears as if the cannons have been shut down for good.
It is amazing what little common sense some members of our BC farm community have. Imagine blasting 120 decibel propane cannons all night long in an area that is inhabited by other residents. And the whole motivation of this winery was the bottom line, neighbours and the environment be damned. They also had the support of our BC Ministry of Agriculture. What a bunch of ............'s.
The only way to pound some sense into this winery was to send them a barrage of e-mails and threaten an internet driven boycott of their products. Is this what it is going to come down to in the Fraser Valley? barimage
It is December 24th today, and this morning we received an e-mail from our favourite BC winery informing us that effective December 20th their use of overnight propane cannons had been suspended. (Webster's defines the word suspend as to temporarily interrupt, or to postpone, or to defer). But we do not feel that there are any temporary connotations in the winery's Xmas message. We think the cannons have been shut off for good. At least we hope so for our friends in the Okanagan. barimage
It's almost Christmas now, and the infamous Okanagan winery is still blasting away all night long, sending their Xmas message to everyone within hearing range of their 120 decibel propane cannons. What ever happened to "Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men" or how about "Silent Night, Holy Night"!

All is sure not calm and bright in Summerland this Xmas, but thanks to this winery we now have a new dedicated group of Ban the Cannon members ready to carry forward our noise battle in this part of the province.

It is hard to believe, but our friends have appealed to the winery, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Farm Practices Board, their MLA, the local papers, and everyone else they can think of and all they get is a shrug. The Ministry of Agriculture won't even uphold their own propane cannon regulations. Suddenly these rules are for bird scaring and there really aren't any rules for scaring deer and elk overnight, so I guess cannons are OK. We sure wish MAFF and the FPB would wake up. After all, our friends in Summerland are certainly awake, and some are awake all night long listening to cannon fire.

Back here in the Fraser Valley our group are giving as much support as possible to the Summerland folks. Your web master for one will be switching to German white wine and French reds this holiday season as a show of support for our Okanagan friends, and as an expression of disgust for BC's Farm Practices and for wineries that use propane cannons all night long. barimage
It's early December now, and the hills are alive with the sounds of cannon fire in the Summerland area. The local estate winery is still blasting away with its propane cannons all night long.

The resident, Paul, who is impacted by the cannon noise first appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture(MAFF). The details are below. But even though MAFF have propane cannon guidelines that prohibit the use of cannons after sunset, they did not enforce their own rules in this instance. Maybe their propane cannon regulations are unenforceable, as our group have been telling them all along. Or maybe this winery can do just whatever it pleases, and the surrounding neighbours be damned!

Next, Paul wrote to the winery, and asked them to at least not fire their cannons overnight. The winery did turn them off for a day or two, but now they are back on again and operating all night long!

Paul hasn't exhausted all of his options yet and plans to escalate this further. One of our members even suggested that we should hold a Ban the Cannons protest in front of this offending winery and invite the media to the event. We could bring along our own cannon and fire it in protest, but I bet we would get arrested!
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In November, 2002 a gentleman from Summerland sent us an e-mail at Ban the Cannons asking for our advice.   A neighbouring vineyard Missing Hills Winery had recently been sold, and the new owners turned out to be propane cannon users. Not only do these new owners use cannons during the day, but they also blast the surrounding countryside with cannon fire all night long, every night. (By the way, the new owners are a well known British Columbia winery.)

The gentleman, who we will call Paul, asked us what he should do about the problem. The cannon noise was keeping him awake every night.

Our group gave him several suggestions, including sending e-mails to Bert van Dalfsen of the Ministry of Agriculure (MAFF), Jim Collins of the Farm Practices Board (FPB), and even writing to John van Dongen, the Minister of Agriculture. Paul followed up with these people, and they directed him to Mr. Combs, a MAFF employee in Kelowna. Mr. Combs initially told Paul that without the address of the owner of the cannons, there was nothing he could do. This did not sit well with Paul, our new Ban the Cannons member in Summerland, or our group here in the Fraser Valley. One of our members wrote to the Honorable Minister, John van Dongen on Paul's behalf, and copied his staff members. Paul, who had gone away on vacation, returned home to find a phone message waiting for him from Mr. Combs. Mr. Combs had found out who the new owners of the property were and that they intended to use cannons to keep deer and elk out of their vineyard overnight. Deer and elk had never been a problem for the previous owners! Anyway, Mr. Combs said he would pay a visit to the new owners and ask them to turn off the overnight cannons.

Finally Paul's problems were solved and he was able to get a good night's sleep, at least for a couple of nights. However, after one or two quiet nights the cannons started booming again. Once more Paul called Mr. Combs, who again discussed the problem with the winery. This time he was told that the elk had returned and were eating the grapes.

So the all night cannons were put back into operation by the new owners of the property and they intend to keep the cannons in operation until the ice wine grapes are harvested, early in 2003!   Mr. Combs called our friend in Summerland and told him there was nothing more he could do.

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Here we have to disagree with Mr. Combs. Our feeling is that he knows that all night cannon blasts are not normal farm practice for scaring deer (fencing is considered normal farm practice), and cannons are not permitted according to the Ministry's propane cannon regulations for 2002. Mr. Combs could have shown a little more initiative here.

As for the noise polluting winery, they could easily use some common sense and talk to our friend Paul to find out more about the problem, and then they could start to work on fencing the property. In the meantime they could employ a watchman to patrol the vineyard at night until the grapes are harvested. This would cost some money and fencing would cost many thousands of dollars, but it would put the winery in compliance with BC's propane cannon regulations. In the long run this solution might be cheap compared to bad publicity and bad neighbourly relations.

This is where the story rests so far. As of the first of December, 2002 Paul still has to endure overnight propane cannon fire and he is unable to get a good night's sleep. But he is not going to put up with this. He plans to escalate the problem further.

Please check back to see how Paul makes out with his propane cannon battle.

Drink Okanagan wine this holiday season.
You'll get a blast from it!
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