By David F. Rooney
An attempt by Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt to convince Council it should actively oppose Interoute’s proposed expansion of the Westside Gravel Pit failed Tuesday afternoon, in part, because it could leave the City high and dry in the gravel department when it embarks on $70 million worth of new construction.
“We have $70 million in new construction scheduled for this year,” Mayor David Raven told Halberstadt. “If we don’t want them here we’ll have to buy it (gravel) from Salmon Arm.”
That $70 million in new construction — not road construction as previously reported — includes the $53 million new schools project.
Halberstadt had asked Council to inform Blair Lekstrom, the minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, that it opposed the mining permit because:
- the pit is too close to the golf course and residential areas (about 750 metres, as opposed to the 3,000 metres Interoute had claimed when it filed for a mining permit);
- it will take more than five years to finish the proposed expansion of the pit;
- Interoute had said it would not be washing the gravel at the pit, yet lists a washing plant as one of the pieces of equipment it wants to install there;
- Interoute workers cleared timber from the proposed expansion area before it received a permit from the inspector of mines;
- the proposed excavation will actually be 3.8 metres below the groundwater table;
- the pit is visible from at least four areas in Columbia park and along Highway 23N; and
- noise and dust from the excavation will have a negative impact on residents’ quality of life unless work is limited to November-March period.
Halberstadt withdrew her motion but she didn’t lose everything she attempted to get at the Council table.
While Council decided not to publicly oppose the pit, it did agree to list its concerns in a letter to Lekstrom. It also agreed to a proposal by Halberstadt and seconded by Tony Scarcella that Mines Inspector Bruce Milligan be invited to a June 7 meeting for Columbia Park residents at 7 pm regarding the gravel pit issue. Council’s invitation to Milligan is expected to inform him that he may learn something of interest at the meeting.
Council’s discussion was keenly observed by a five Columbia Park-area residents. They were somewhat pleased with the decision to invite Milligan to the meeting, but — as Stuart Andrews pointed out — it appears as though Interoute is already beginning to mine gravel at the site even though it does not appear as though a permit has yet been issued. Andrews sent The Current a photograph (see the image above) taken on Saturday afternoon that shows something, presumably gravel, being loaded into a truck. Andrews said he watched as the material was scooped from “the additional 11.4 hectares that they have applied for… (and that has) yet to be approved. I believe this contravenes the Mines Act.”
Columbia Park resident George Hopkins was angry that while municipal Bylaw Enforcement Officers will nit pick over home renovations they’ll apparently ignore the actions of a big company.
“If I have to go through all kinds of inspection when I’m putting in a new set of front stairs right down to them coming and measuring the depth of the holes for the concrete footings and no one is inspecting a multi-million-dollar operation what the heck is going on?” he asked.