Gravel rocky issue for FVRD candidates

Gravel mining. It has been the most contentious issue to come before the Fraser Valley Regional District board.

Gravel mining.

It has been the most contentious issue to come before the Fraser Valley Regional District board.

Electoral area candidates were asked if they supported the FVRD’s proposed Aggregate Pilot Project, which would identify areas in the region where gravel mining would be allowed.

Area C, which includes Lake Errock, is where most of the public opposition has been heard.

Area C Candidate Mel Waardenburg said the APP is “a beginning” which will allow the regional government some say in a process over which it has no input today.

“The devil will be in the details, if we move forward with the implementation of the Aggregate Pilot Project,” he  said.

“The (APP) document is vague with respect to many issues, including how much the (removal) fee will be and how it will be spent and who will oversee the policing of the gravel industry within the FVRD,” he said.

“I can only support (the APP) if the communities and residences affected get a direct benefit from it, through better services, including more parks and trails and increased policing of the gravel trucking industry.”

Area C candidate Colin Faulkner said “whether we like it or not, (gravel pits) are here to stay, so instead of spending our time and resources to fight it, we should be trying to find ways to work with them in order to maintain a happy median.”

“Instead of looking at the negatives, one should look at the positives, such as jobs created by the industry.”

Wendy Bales, the incumbent director, said the APP could have been successful — if the public had been given a place at the committee where the agreement was negotiated, along with representatives from the gravel industry, the regional district and the provincial government.

“By leaving the public consultation out of the process for over five years, many of the conflicts of communities and other resource and water users have yet to be resolved,” she said.

“The APP could work, if participants, including all the other concerned groups, were allowed to participate, not just industry and various governments,” she said. “If the government were serious regarding the building of an APP which would avoid future conflicts, they would certainly include the local area residents’ concerns, whose lives are impacted the most.”

“I am still willing to work towards that end on the APP committee,” she said.

Area D candidate Michael Henshall also called for public input into the process.

“The Aggregate Pilot Project is a prime example of government conducting their own agenda behind closed doors without consultation of adversely affected area residents,” he said. “This is why we have seen such outrage from the public over the project.”

“I do believe aggregate is available in abundance in the FVRD and is important to have in close proximity for local demand,” he said. “However, for the future of aggregate extraction in our area the public needs to be much more informed and have opportunity to provide their input.”

Bill Dickey, the Area D incumbent, said he supports the APP to end the “gravel wars” that have rocked the FVRD.

“Clearly we were confronted by a dysfunctional system in terms of the planning and regulation of gravel extraction,” he said.

“No one in local government is under the illusion that the (APP) report recommendations are a perfect solution, from our perspective, he said. “However, changes are not going to be made without Provincial Government, aggregate industry and community support.”

Taryn Dixon, the candidate in Area E where gravel mining has also been an issue, said she “would like to see certain areas protected from further mining and would work towards improving the current situation.”

“The conflict could be resolved if the mining stopped, however, this is unrealistic,” she said. “The mines are on Crown Land and under Provincial jurisdiction. I believe the Regional District must continue to maintain open communication with all parties involved and work towards creating a situation that is mutually acceptable.”

 

Candidates complete responses to Question Three:

What is your position on the gravel removal issue?
Do you support the FVRD’s Aggregate Pilot Project?

If you don’t, what needs to be done to resolve gravel conflicts?

 

Andy Bishop, Area B

Aggregate is necessary for the new building projects as well as maintenance of existing projects. The Fraser Valley has a large volume of Aggregate. I feel that any new projects need to conform to all the regulations including, but not limited to; Environment and Fisheries, Health, Visual and Noise Issues. Every new project needs to be assessed as a unique project.

Yes (I support the APP), provided all the regulations are followed, on a case by case basis.

Every new project will have its own unique list of challenges.

 

Mel Waardenburg, Area C

The fundamental authority with respect to gravel extraction sits with the provincial government via the mines act. Local governments have some say but ultimately it is provincial jurisdiction.

I believe that the aggregate pilot project is a beginning to allowing local governments to assess a production-based fee and to have more say in the permitting process, of which we have little say today. The devil will be in the details if we move forward with the implementation of the Aggregate Pilot Project. The document is vague with respect to many issues including how much the fee will be and how it will be spent and who will oversee the policing of the gravel industry within the FVRD.

I can only support it if the communities and residences affected get a direct benefit from it, through better services, including more parks and trails and increased policing of the gravel trucking industry.

Area C has had, and still has many conflicts with the Aggregate Industry with may residences affected. In the past there has been protests and petitions against the industry with no positive results. In fact the area has seen NEW gravel operations started in the past couple of years, so it is clear that we need to find a new approach. We need to focus less on the conflict and more on the solutions through consultation, cooperation and compromise between all parties.

 

Colin Faulkner, Area C

I know people aren’t happy with the gravel pits and it’s a very sensitive issue, but whether we like it or not they’re here to stay, so instead of spending our time and resources to fight it, we should be trying to find ways to work with them in order to maintain a happy median.

Instead of looking at the negatives, one should look at the positives, such as jobs created by the industry.

 

Wendy Bales, Area C

I LOVE GRAVEL!! I use it at home and sometimes for work, and even once wrote a sappy country and western song about it. The problem is that I love other important things too, that I also need for my home and work, like water and food and all the other economies that we need to support. I believe that we can support many other interests if we manage resources and needs like water in a sustainable way and in the right locations.

With growing population’s priorities for needs have to be balanced. We need watersheds for other important necessities like sustainable aquifers, food, and salmon habitat and even for the air we breathe and that needs to be considered. Cumulative impacts and the balancing of other necessary interests aren’t properly considered under the archaic B.C. Mines Act which is over 150 years old. The Mining Act can trump and prevail over other important protections. Some protections for other needs to live that are already in place don’t get properly regulated, monitored or enforced. That is why I wrote the below resolution for UBCM that was passed and had a large percent of endorsement. I have talked to many community representatives from around B.C. that are dealing with the same problems as we have in our FVRD.

My Amend the Mining Act Resolution;

http://www.box.net/shared/kk8bh5y450fr9h43mgvq

The Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) is chaired by the province’s MLA Randy Hawes and I believe has been too heavily weighed by industry and the provincial government. It was supposed to help secure gravel needs into the distant 100 year future as well as dispelling community conflicts. I believe that the process has been unbalanced for far too long. By leaving the public consultation out of the process for over 5 years many of the conflicts of communities and other resource and water users have yet to be resolved. The APP could work, if participants including all the other concerned groups were allowed to participate, not just industry and various governments. If the government were serious regarding the building of an APP which would avoid future conflicts, they would certainly include the local area residents concerns, whose lives are impacted the most. I am still willing to work towards that end on the APP Committee.

I often wonder if the APP was just meant as a salve for the public, to look like a solution was being worked on. In the meantime in the last decade record amounts of gravel pits were grandfathered in. That has in itself guaranteed a large supply under the current archaic system of the Mining Act. All the while and as reported by the Auditor General, reclamation for mining is only at 50%. During the same time period regulating and enforcement agencies were cut back to about 50% less, so that they couldn’t possibly keep up, thereby making protective agencies almost impotent and more reactive. The public who doesn’t see a profit and are not allowed to trespass are left to fight for what minimal standards and enforcement that they can get. It has left what is almost a free for all for industry and more hardships for communities, habitats and other economic interests… An example of this is that if pits go in under a certain size for extraction only minimal self paid studies are required. Self regulation for industry is also mostly the norm these days.

Currently tonnage fees are not collected for export gravel or for rural areas, but are for cities. Tonnage fees should be collected for all gravel to at the very least help towards paying for fair regulating and reclamation. In past research I found that the USA was actually getting our gravel and even selling it cheaper retail then for what we local people could get it for ourselves at the pit price. Tonnage fees should also help to pay for the costs of the devaluation of local area communities and property values.

To have sustainable economies, mining and other non renewable resource extractions like those of fossil fuels need to have cumulative impacts looked at. The Mining Act doesn’t facilitate that and neither does the Aggregate Pilot Project for gravel yet. The APP could be a bandage solution to the overriding problem that is the Mining Act and so I am quite willing to work on it. If the Mining Act and Mineral Tenures Act are not amended though, it will in the very near future have serious consequences for B.C.’s potable water as well as the accessibility of it (it is already).

We already have many years worth of gravel pits permitted under the archaic Mining Act. Problem is that often several properties get bought up under different owners that are all operated under the same company. That avoids having to do more cumulative studies of the overall affect to other important resources, and community and habitat interests like water, health, tourism road safety and other resident’s property values. With rapidly growing populations some of the other concerns will be far more important and valuable in the very near future.

In this video from last year promises with a timeline were made. We are still waiting for enforcement of regulations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU_-0qazqZk  I am hoping to someday have our local zoning regulations enforced. The Chief Inspector has chosen to give crushing permits that are contrary to local Zoning Bylaws and of which would cost a lot of taxpayer dollars to enforce in legal challenge. We do need governments that will work together for the best interests of local residents in B.C.

We need to remember that for the future viability of our economy, we also need to always consider cumulative impacts and the costs of other affordable ecological necessities that we need to live. Anything less would be leveraging far too much of the next generations sustainability.

 

Mike Henshall, Area D

I believe aggregate as well as all other natural resources in BC belong to the people of our province for the benefit of the people of the province. Government needs to represent their constituents accordingly.

The Aggregate Pilot Project is a prime example of government conducting their own agenda behind closed doors without consultation of adversely affected area residents. This is why we have seen such outrage from the public over the project.

I do believe aggregate is available in abundance in the FVRD and is important to have in close proximity for local demand. However, for the future of aggregate extraction in our area the public needs to be much more informed and have opportunity to provide their input. The FVRD needs to better communicate local issues as aggregate extraction with area residents through local media and specifically the FVRD website.

As a local sport fisherman I want to see our resources sustainable. My view on gravel extraction in the Fraser River and other waterways is that it should only be done for extreme situations of directional channel control, flood threat where private property is at risk, or for fish spawning channels. For other aggregate extraction it would have to be considered on a case to case basis not a blanket approach as we see with the Aggregate Pilot Project.

 

Bill Dickey, Area D

My position is that our communities, as represented by their local governments, should attempt to implement the recommendations of the Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) in an effort to better plan the extraction of gravel in the future.

The APP process came about as the result of pervasive conflicts experienced by local governments, the Provincial Government, and the aggregate industry. What some have termed the “Gravel Wars”. Clearly we were confronted by a dysfunctional system in terms of the planning and regulation of gravel extraction. No one in local government is under the illusion that the report recommendations are a perfect solution, from our perspective. If we were writing the report from a solely local government perspective it would look very different. However, changes are not going to be made without Provincial Government, aggregate industry and community support. We think that the recommendations are a big improvement on the existing situation.

 

Taryn Dixon, Area E

Gravel removal is a complex issue. People in the Regional District generally live there because they enjoy the peace, quiet, and the scenery. A gravel mine is generally noisy, unattractive, can damage our watersheds, adds gravel trucks onto the roads, and if it’s crushed on site can add silica dust into the environment. No one wants this in their back yard and yet, we all use gravel resources in one form or another, for our roads, bridges and buildings. The gravel has to come from somewhere so I do support gravel removal but would like to see certain areas protected from further mining and would work towards improving the current situation.

The conflict could be resolved if the mining stopped, however, this is unrealistic. The mines are on Crown Land and under Provincial jurisdiction. I believe the Regional District must continue to maintain open communication with all parties involved and work towards creating a situation that is mutually acceptable. Both sides must learn to respect one another, to listen to concerns and display a willingness to make some concessions.  It is important to understand that being listened to, does not always mean you get what you want.

There have been many meetings, and recommendations for improving the situation have been put forward at the Regional District Table. One recommendation that has been proposed is the creation of Red, Yellow and Green zones outlining which activities can occur in each zone. The Red Zone is to have no permits issued for gravel extraction, Yellow Zone permits can be issued under certain conditions and the Green Zone does permit gravel extraction as long as the recommended process has been followed and permits are in place. These zone guidelines must be adhered to. I would like to see more of an effort on the part of the mines to reduce the noise and the dust. I also want the Mining Companies to be held accountable for the environment and I do support the recommendation that as part of the permitting process, mining company applicants be required to complete an environmental assessment/scientific study.

 

David Lamson, Area E

Yes, I  support the recommendations of the Aggregate Pilot Project.  Its recommendations are a forward looking approach to reduce future community conflict with gravel mining.  It calls for both provincial regulations and regional bylaws to be written and this takes time to do it right. FVRD staff have been working on a implementation plan which is available on the FVRD website.

 

Dick Bogstie, Area F

I support the (APP) process. I have spent a good portion of the last 20 years trying to lessen the adverse impact this industry has on our area. The APP is the only process where industry and the province have agreed to develop and abide by restrictions.

At present a company can apply to extract gravel anywhere and as long as they fulfill the Provincial requirements they must be granted a permit. If the pit is in an area of the FVRD covered by the soil removal and deposit bylaw and the company meets the terms and conditions, it must be granted a permit. This is mandated by legislation. Pits can be placed where nobody wants them with little recourse. The APP process will establish areas that pits can be, where they can’t and where with significant restrictions they might. This process will be a three-way agreement between industry, local government and the province. Everybody will know where these area will be and the restrictions. There will be no surprises as there are today when a pit can suddenly appear where it causes significant problems with no recourse. Or you might buy a piece of property and have a pit appear. At least under the APP people will have knowledge as to where the pits could be into the future.

The local government has no legal right to prohibit extraction. The Province considers aggregate a provincial resource and will not allow local government to prohibit extraction.

Through the APP process the province is agreeing to restrict extraction and allow conditions. The industry is agreeing to these conditions. And finally local government has a say in the process which is not the case now.

The difficulty is that known areas of proven resource which can be taken out economically do have people near them. Their concerns must be addressed as part of this agreement.

 

Lea Ricketts, Area G

My position on the gravel removal issue is that gravel pits belong away from neighborhoods. We all need gravel but we don’t need gravel pits in peoples back yards.

I do not support the APP. The project, sponsored by Randy Hawes, was compiled of committee members from the Aggregate Producers of BC, City of Abbotsford and Chilliwack, Districts of Hope, Kent and Mission, the FVRD and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Over the years of creating this document of a set of recommendations for the industry, the public was not invited to the table. The APP is so flawed it needs to be rewritten with public input.

 

Al Stobbart, Area G

Gravel is an integral component of any new development project, whether highways, bridges, dikes, or commercial, public and residential construction and as such, requires an available and affordable supply now and into the foreseeable future.

No one can deny the detrimental effect that excess noise and other environmental factors of poorly designed and functioning gravel operations may have on nearby inhabitants and this has generally led the anti-APP rally. However, the province has been very clear from the beginning of the process that existing gravel tenures will be protected and are therefore outside the mandate of the APP.

I support the APP’s draft direction as it will provide at least two very positive outcomes:

The formation of the Red (no gravel), yellow (gravel may be permitted) and green (yes to gravel) will permit FVRD and municipal planners, along with future property purchasers, certainty of knowing beforehand the long-term possibility of gravel extraction in a given location.

The current FVRD bylaws designed to negate unfavorable conditions surrounding many aspects of gravel extraction are technically difficult to administer and past litigation has proven costly and ineffective. Under the APP’s proposed tonnage fees accruing to the FVRD, there would be non-tax based funding available which, following development of improved bylaws, could provide adequate staff capabilities to support rigorous and defendable monitoring and enforcement of gravel operations to help ensure industry compliance to the benefit of residents.