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Old March 31st, 2004, 01:36 PM
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Dog debate unleashed

By Tracy Holmes
Staff Reporter

The muzzle came off the Blackie Spit off-leash dog debate in an unlikely place March 24-the B.C. legislature.

Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg took Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection Bill Barisoff to task in the house, after receiving dozens of phone and email complaints about the process leading to changes in the off-leash area at the spit.
Dog owners remain particularly riled by the lack of water access for dogs there.

The issue has been a contentious one ever since a trial off-leash area at Blackie Spit was closed last year. Dog owners who let their pets swim in waters off the spit have been told the practice is not acceptable, given the area's environmental sensitivity.
Hogg said Friday he took the issue to the house to clarify three things: who is responsible-the city or the province-for the foreshore; what scientific evidence determined Blackie Spit is Canada's most important bird area; and what is the process leading to a final decision.

"Three fairly self-evident things," Hogg said.
However, Barisoff and his staff "didn't even know whether the terms of reference (in a study underway by the City of Surrey) reflect the foreshore."
Hogg also questioned why the province is not more involved in the study.

The province has jurisdiction from the high-tide mark seaward.
But, the ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection is not contributing funding to the study, and has not provided standards in regards to the impact dogs have on the environment. Barisoff told Hogg the ministry's preference is for no dogs off-leash, but "we're supporting the recommendations" that have resulted in an off-leash site in the park's centre.
Barisoff promised Hogg more answers, and said the ministry will have the final word on use of the spit's foreshore.
Hogg said the debate "clearly didn't bring it to a resolution...(but) I'm sure I shined a light or provincial perspective on this issue."
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