Aquilinis to plead guilty on enviro charges

Francesco, Elisa, Paulo and Roberto Aquilini charged under the Water Act with unauthorized diversion of water.

The pump was installed in 2009.

The pump was installed in 2009.

The long, drawn-out case involving the Aquilinis and the North Alouette River could be coming to a close after a notice of intent to plead guilty to environmental charges was made last month.

Francesco, Elisa, Paulo and Roberto Aquilini were charged under the Water Act with unauthorized diversion of water in connection with the June 2009 installation of an irrigation pipe into the river.

They were also charged under the Fisheries Act for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat in connection with work done to install the intake pipe.

In total, 11 charges were laid under the Fisheries Act, the Dike Maintenance Act and the Water Act.

Also named in the charges were six numbered companies, along with Richard Matis, CPI-Cranberry Plantation and Global Coin Inc.

Crown prosecutor Jim McCauley said discussions have taken place since the case was sent to trial a year ago.

“There was just an indication there would be a plea,” he said Wednesday.

“There wasn’t an indication of who would plead, or to what, just an indication that it would be dealt with by way of plea.”

But it hasn’t been specified which charges would receive guilty pleas.

The next date is Oct. 23 in Port Coquitlam provincial court, where the pleas could be entered, at which time the judge may reserve decision or sentence.

A spokesman for the Aquilini Investment Group, which also owns the Vancouver Canucks, didn’t want to comment, although a spokesman said previously that the company had been cooperating with the environment ministry.

Golden Eagle Group, also part of the Aquilini Investment Group, said in 2009 that it pumped water from the river briefly to save young cranberry plants during a dry spring. It had applications pending for that use.

Geoff Clayton, with the Alouette River Management Society, likes to think that local residents and the river stewardship groups made the difference in prompting Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ministry of Environment to investigate.

“It was becoming a bit of a showcase that they would have to act.”

He said it’s unlikely that charges would have been laid under the new Fisheries Act, passed this year by the Conservative government. The act removes protection for fish habitat.

Clayton also proposed previously a water-use plan for the North Alouette area using a real-time water monitoring system that’s available to all users and environmental groups.

Golden Eagle Group operates almost 5,000 acres of berry farms in Pitt Meadows.


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