Over $500,000 in Fines and Site Remediations Conclude a Six-Year Investigation into Major Habitat Destruction Along the Chilcotin and Kleena Kleene Rivers

CNW Group/Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region

QUESNEL, BC — A complex six-year investigation into major habitat destruction along the Chilcotin and Kleena Kleene rivers has concluded with a total of $545,000 in fines, following three court cases. The investigation was conducted by fishery officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Williams Lake and Prince George, British Columbia (B.C.) in conjunction with provincial natural resource officers and biologists.

The major habit destruction involved in these cases resulted from the removal of riparian habitat vegetation, infilling of side channels, fish passage obstructions, stream diversion, unauthorized changes in a stream and unauthorized works on crown lands. The purpose of the work was to increase available land to be used for agricultural purposes. None of this work had Fisheries Act or provincial authorizations.

The first trial in the case concluded in October 2022 following a guilty plea by Altherr & Schellenberg Cattle Co. LTD, when the company was ordered to pay a fine of $280,000 for serious violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act habitat provisions.

The second court case concluded on February 28, 2023, following a guilty plea by Altherr & Schellenberg Cattle Co. LTD. The company was ordered to pay a fine of $175,000 for serious violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act, B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act, and the BC Forest and Range Practices Act.

The third court case concluded on May 28, 2024, following a guilty plea by the contractor, Bayliff Enterprises, Ltd., hired by Altherr & Schellenberg Cattle Co. LTD to perform land clearing activities along the Kleena Kleene River.

Bayliff Enterprises Ltd. was ordered to pay a fine of $90,000 for serious violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act and B.C.’s Forest and Range Practices Act. $45,000 of the fine was levied by Judge Mulder of the Quesnel Provincial Court to discourage companies or individuals from earning money when performing unauthorized activities.

A total of $545,000 in fines was handed down to the company and the contractor involved in these violations. Of this, $440,000 was ordered to be held in trust with the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) for the purpose of the conservation and protection of salmon, salmon habitat or the restoration of salmon habitat in the Chilcotin region of B.C. The remainder of the fines went to General Revenue. The Court further ordered the company to provide a total $1,250,000 in bond to remediate the impacted sites along both the Chilcotin and Kleena Kleene Rivers within two years, and provide four reports comprehensively documenting work done and survival rates of plantings on riparian land adjacent to the rivers for the next decade.

DFO has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to enforce the Fisheries Act. As part of DFO’s work to disrupt and prevent illegal activity, the Department asks the public for information on activities of this nature or any contravention of the Fisheries Act and regulations. Anyone with information can call DFO Pacific region’s toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or email the details to  DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.

Quick Facts:

  • The violations to fish and fish habitat by the company occurred between 2017 and 2020 on two privately-owned ranch lands along the Chilcotin and Kleena Kleene Rivers, near Redstone and Kleena Kleene, B.C. and on Crown Land.
  • The Chilcotin River system supports important salmon populations, including coho, chinook, and sockeye. Within those populations are COSEWIC-listed salmon populations: Interior Fraser population of coho (threatened), Middle Fraser stream spring population of chinook (endangered), and Chinook (endangered).
  • The habitat destruction outlined in these cases include de-vegetation in the riparian areas and side-channels of the Chilcotin and Kleena Kleene Rivers, removal of top-soil and the filling in of river side-channels, and the installation of berms. They also diverted water and changed flow conditions/direction at the Chilcotin site. The work was done without any permits and did not have any Fisheries Act authorizations.
  • Fishery officers work closely with biologists from DFO’s Federal Fisheries Habitat Protection Program to ensure any work undertaken near water complies with the fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.
  • It is a legal requirement that measures must be taken to avoid causing the death of fish and any harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat in any work, undertaking or activity.
  • There are serious consequences for non-compliance with the fish and Fish habitat protection provisions – Fish and fish habitat protection policy statement, August 2019 (dfo-mpo.gc.ca).

Associated Link: Projects near water (dfo-mpo.gc.ca)

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