Long-discarded Ashcroft landfill plan formally rejected

Province's decision doesn't alter Metro garbage plans

A provincial announcement that Metro Vancouver won’t be allowed to build a new regional landfill at its Ashcroft Ranch property appears to be largely a formality, coming about six years after the idea seemed dead anyway.

Metro’s board voted in early 2008 to give up on using any new Interior landfill and to instead try to build new waste-to-energy plants to burn excess garbage.

That decision came after the province in mid-2005 suspended the environmental assessment of the Ashcroft Ranch proposal in response to the threat of First Nation legal challenges.

Victoria announced Friday the Ashcroft Ranch environmental certificate is now being denied in part because the government approved Metro’s solid waste management plan this summer and it indicates no need for a new Interior landfill.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, who chairs Metro’s waste committee, said the region never withdrew the ranch landfill application in case it was somehow approved, as it would then offer another outlet for the region’s waste.

“There was never any intention to go in that direction,” he stressed.

An Environmental Assessment Office official said Metro never formally indicated it didn’t want to proceed, so the review process was reactivated after the solid waste plan was approved.

Moore said Metro will now likely sell the Ashcroft property, where it sank more than $10 million into property acquisition and other costs trying to get the landfill approved.

The issue still rankles many board members because the province swiftly approved a rival proposal in 2010 by dump operator Wastech to build a new regional landfill at Cache Creek, effectively a massive expansion of the existing site.

Metro had previously tried to do the exact same thing at Cache Creek, but was rejected about eight years ago.

“We were pretty shocked they could continue the operation across the street using the same technology and Metro couldn’t,” Moore said.

But he added the board thinks it’s Zero Waste strategy to greatly increase recycling will ultimately be a better choice.

A new Cache Creek landfill that may be built by Wastech could still be a backup outlet for Metro garbage if specific proposals to build in-region or out-of-region waste-to-energy plants are rejected.

Fraser Valley cities oppose more garbage incineration by Metro on health and air quality grounds.