Not Just Another Gravel Pit

By September 6, 2013Guest Columns, Hot Topic

By Wendy Bales. With regard to Overrun By Gravel – while there is no doubt that the proposed Lake Errock Ekset pit is in a bad location that will negatively impact hundreds of people as well as important habitat and tourism, the Ekset run gravel pits already permitted near Norrish Creek as well as the pits that could follow under the Aggregate Pilot Project’s (APP) large gravel zones proposed, have the potential to affect many thousands. These Ekset run pits are at the base of Mission and Abbotsford’s main water source as well as being a very important spawning habitat and tourism area.

I was once told by someone who was in charge of an Ministry Of Environment water branch that it can often be worse to undermine a creek source, since if you mine into underground connected springs or water channels it can act like a siphon and drain the main source.

I remember the October FVRD Board meeting that the writer talks about. As Mission and Abbotsford’s main water source, after hearing the delegation of residents I asked that the FVRD board fund a more detailed independent hydrological study as I believe was merited. Unfortunately I was outvoted on the motion for an extra study. I wanted to make sure that the then proposed pit didn’t disrupt any underground channels that may connect to Norrish Creek, as I believe has already happened with a creek above Lake Errock where you can see the water seeping out of the hillside below and where the creek was recently dry in December for the 1st known time to local residents.

Although there are several factors to the poor salmon runs this year, the viability of our cool mountain creeks and stream tributaries are an integral part of our the Fraser River being a survivable temperature for many connected species.

The power point and delegation at the October meeting was very moving. It showed the severe eye infections of a horse that the vet homeowner attributed to the smoke from clearing an area pit trade property as well as the dust that was also very visible as a result from the existing pit. Pictures clearly showed the dust and smoke in the air. One resident said that she was regularly on oxygen as a result and they have since had to move away. Residents said that they believed that the operating mine had already excavated below the water table because there was standing water as you can see in a picture from the dry period in the summer.

The FVRD staff arranged to tour the pit in 2012. Residents told me that the pit operators were working after dark and after midnight cleaning up the pit for at least 2 or more nights before the FVRD tour, as they could hear the noise that kept them awake and they could see the machine and truck lights in the pit. Pictures also clearly show the garbage buried on site. When I asked the pit operator at the October 2012 FVRD board meeting if they had receipts for garbage disposal, I got no answer.

This is just another example of why we need to amend the Mines Act, especially so that it considers and addresses the cumulative impacts from clusters of mines. It is also a good example of why I believe that the Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) will not reduce conflict. Under the APP gravel zones that are proposed, the area pits around Norrish Creek can easily expand. Regulations in the prevailing Mines Act as well as permit clauses and local zoning have not been enforced in many local pits. Neither the Mines Act or the APP have the legal teeth to support sustainability and protect our watersheds and all that depend on them. With the APP FVRD regulating and enforcement could still be largely at the mercy of the prevailing Mining Act as well as Free Trade. Enforcement of local zoning and bylaws is subject to the will of whomever are the current voting directors.

Wendy Bales
Area C Director FVRD

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