By David F. Rooney
Here’s what we really, really need: yet another gravel pit in our backyard.
This time, though, it’s just outside the City’s boundaries off Westside Road near the Jordan River and, of course, directly across from Columbia Park.
Mmm! You can almost taste the dust.
The proposal for this pit is before the province right now and has been filed at the Front Counter BC office in the old Columbia Forest District Office by YCS Holdings Ltd. of Prince George. YCS is a subsidiary of Terus Construction Ltd., the same company that owns the Westside Road gravel pit that opened in 2010 to a storm of controversy and public anger.
Stuart Andrews, who fought a long, difficult and unsuccessful battle to stop the Westside pit, said this new mining operation will only harm property values in Columbia Park and the silica dust emitted by the mining operation will be an irritant to people with respiratory problems.
“We couldn’t stop the last one, but maybe we can stop this one,” he said during a conversation at the Rod & Gun Club banquet two weeks ago. “We should be following what Whistler’s doing.”
Whistler’s City Council has two bylaws its proponents hope will stop gravel pits in their tracks.
According to the Whistler Pique, the first bylaw, given first and second reading in January, would delete “resource uses” from permitted uses on RR1 zoned lands. Resource uses include extraction of gravel and aggregate and logging. The bylaw will be the subject of a public hearing. The second bylaw, given first, second and third reading, would prohibit removal of soil, clay, sand, gravel, rock and other soil matter from land within Whistler. The bylaw requires the consent of the Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
YCS’s proposed new gravel mine is 1,00 metres outside the City boundaries and according to a public notice contains “5.2 hectares more or less.” Their application says they want to operate it six days a week.
Loni Parker, director of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s Area B (which encompasses the lands around Revelstoke), says she has received a number of complaints and communications of concern from her constituents.
She said the CSRD will send a letter of protest to the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resources but beyond that it’s hands are tied as the permits for this kind of mining operation comes from the province. And the province doesn’t really seem to care.
“If there was a requirement for them to hold a public open house there might be a different outcome for this kind of thing, but there isn’t,” she said.
“There was an outcry before but the government didn’t listen and I don’t think it’s going to listen now.”
Parker opponents shouldn’t let that government inaction prevent them from trying to stop the gravel pit or any other kind of development that is not in the interest of local residents.
More direct action may force government to focus its attention on the issue and public demands.
The North Columbia Environmental Society is weighing in on this issue with a letter urging Parker to do what she can to try and top the put from going ahead.
“This gravel pit will produce large amounts of crystalline silica dust, which will be blown over Revelstoke,” NCES President Sarah Newton said in the letter. “People will be exposed and their health compromised. The health and environmental dangers of gravel pits are well known; silica dust is a Class 1 carcinogen. Furthermore, environmental standards for gravel pits are not stringent enough nor well enough enforced to protect our citizens or the natural environment.”
The Ministry of Mines and Forests have inadequately monitored the Valley Black Top gravel pit on Westside Road. The level of contamination from this gravel pit to the City of Revelstoke is unknown. Aside from this existing gravel pit, there are six other gravel pits within our air shed. There is no need for yet another one.
“The citizens of Revelstoke have repeatedly voiced their desire for clean air and drinking water. These wishes are represented in our Official Community Plan, Community Development Action Plan, CDAP, and in the upcoming Integrated Community Sustainability Plan and still in draft form- Unified Development Bylaw.
“The NCES strongly urges the CSRD to also honour our desire for clean air and water by granting no more permits for gravel extraction anywhere within the air shed of Revelstoke.”