Wednesday, June 13, 2012

 

Letters

Activists: Aggregate Pilot Project Has Major Flaws

FVRD directors set to decide on the precedent-setting plan June 26

Submitted by Reg Longmore, Deroche

 

hould it be any surprise to anyone, that once again the directors of the FVRD have lowered our expectations of them once more?

 

Here is a group of people elected and funded by the people who delight, it would seem, in keeping the tax payers of the Fraser Valley in the dark when the most important and contentious issues are on the line. Probably the most important decision in the history of the FVRD is about to be made, and does every Fraser Valley resident know about it? No.

 

The fact is that very few people are aware that the incredibly contentious, and biased (APP) Aggregate Pilot Project will be voted on by the FVRD Directors on June 26-2012 at the Evergreen Hall in Chilliwack.

 

This potential legislation, if approved, will be spread throughout the Province of British Columbia. Most people are totally unaware of the APP and what the future ramifications will be. Meetings held (behind closed doors) between the Provincial Government, the FVRD and the Aggregate Producers (with zero public input) have produced a document so severely flawed and biased, that the governing bodies are trying their very best to keep citizens ignorant of the facts.

 

We have two directors however who believe in democracy (Directors Bales and Adamson) who tabled several motions in an attempt to convince their counterparts to institute a region wide mail out in an attempt to inform people of the seriousness of the upcoming vote, but the other directors voted “no” to the mail out, you need to wonder why.

 

The fact is that the Provincial Government is holding a carrot before a bumbling donkey, promising "Super Fees" or tonnage fees to the FVRD if they vote in favour of the APP, although no one knows what or how much that will entail. Ask yourself, how can we hope to have the Regional District cast an impartial vote, when the Provincial Government is pressuring them to do otherwise?


What is truly sickening here, is that not only can your favorite paradise be turned into a gravel pit, but even more importantly, you may lose your water aquifer, your salmon spawning stream, your river, wildlife habitat, and be poisoned by dust mitigation from asphalt and concrete plants, not just for a few years, but for a hundred years or more.

 

Do not be misled, this is all about profit, big government, and big corporations, who don't give a dam about the sacred rights of British Columbians. Although the public who have found out about this farce, have bombarded the FVRD with complaints, these have been met with virtually deaf ears and indifference, which makes one wonder whether the end result was preordained from the outset.

 

If the remaining directors of the FVRD had an ounce of democratic decency, they would disqualify themselves from the vote because of conflict of interest, and allow a referendum to be held by the citizens of the FVRD.

 

Public Meetings

June 23rd - 1-1:30 P.M. Kilby Hall

June 26th - 7 P.M. at Evergreen Hall


 

The following is a letter from Randy Hawes, Minister of State for Mining, to Reg Longmore

 

Once more you push out ill-informed and inaccurate information that could only be characterized as fear mongering. Please explain how planning where FUTURE gravel pits might be located results in poisoned aquifers, loss of salmon, wildlife and dust "mitigation" (I assume you mean migration).

 

The APP does not decrease the scrutiny that now takes place by the Ministry of Environment, DFO, and others and the same standards are to be met whether there is an APP or not. I fail to understand why you persist in spreading these falsehoods.
Once again, let us be clear: the APP is about planning where future aggregate operations might take place. It gives local government much more say in permit conditions than they have currently.


If the APP is voted down I believe it will be tragic for many areas in the Fraser Valley however, contrary to what you say, income for the government, the industry, and myself are not affected in any way whether the APP is approved or not. I think it is shameful for you to attribute the motivation for the APP to greed.

 

Why not just say you don't want a gravel pit near you and leave it there. Your bias seems to be making you smear everyone and everything associated with aggregate and that is simply wrong.
 

Below, Reg Longmore responds to Lloyd Forman, FVRD Director Area A, who wrote in support of Hawes' letter to Longmore, above.

 

Thanks' so much for your contribution Mr. Forman,


This of course comes from an FVRD Director who could not even be bothered to attend the FVRD Public Information Meetings on the APP, so had no idea what the public, whose rights you were sworn to protect felt about the APP process.

 

Could it be that your decision was already made prior to the information meetings?

 

Keep sucking up to Mr. Hawes, it will not betray your  bias. I notice that you colored almost all of your area GREEN (good to go for mining interests) did you think to ask the residents of your area, as  well as First Nations whether they agreed with your decision, or is this all  your idea? Did you even consider where the water sheds are located in the area you represent?

 

 

Below, Reg Longmore responds to Hawes' letter above, June 13 2012

 

Mr. Hawes,
Whilst I concede to your expertise of political "double speak" you continually hide the true facts of the APP process. You have yet to give a satisfactory answer as to why the public were never allowed to participate in "behind closed door meetings" that the aggregate industry were so obviously guiding.

 

You ask "what is wrong with planning where future gravel pits will be located?" If you can't answer that question yourself Mr. Hawes, you are indeed short sighted. Maybe you should ask yourself what is more important, having a hundred year water shed plan, or a hundred year gravel mining plan.

 

Many locations chosen as "primo gravel" locations come into direct conflict with major water shed locations, which do you believe are more important? Secondly, no one has ever denied that having a plan for new gravel locations is a good idea, the problem arises when it is the gravel industry who choose the locations, without input from the public and unbiased environmental reports.

 

Your own ministries' home page proudly announces that aggregate is the most common product on the planet, so why is  it so important that you and the aggregate industry choose locations so sensitive to human and animal life? Maybe the directive from the aggregate industry that locations should be chosen close to major highways to increase profits is the ultimate goal.

 

Having communities living in close proximity to these pits, is just a slight inconvenience. Every human being has a God given right to clean water, by allowing gravel industries free access to these water shed locations, they in turn get control of people's water supply, one has to wonder whether this is a secondary objective.

 

Why also do you think that the incredibly biased APP is so important to the aggregate industry and local and provincial government, but so despised by the citizens who have taken the time to study it? Various "Citizens Groups" have supplied your government with an alternative 100 year aggregate plan called the ASP (Aggregate Supply Plan) which is fair and unbiased, however your government have refused to consider it, is this because it was not corporate driven, but rather considerate of the rights of British Columbians?

 

Maybe before attempting to correct my grammar, you should instead concentrate on the welfare of British Columbians whose rights you were sworn to protect.

 

Using your own documentation, it has been shown that there is enough aggregate at the Hope Slide to supply all of British Columbia's needs for  over a hundred years, maybe if your government had not been so short sighted in selling B.C. Rail, a steady supply could have been supplied by fuel efficient rail, with zero impact on the environment to supply all our needs.
 

Before you even start saying this would not be cost effective, try explaining why British Columbia aggregate can be purchased in California at a lower cost, than at the pit head here in B.C.?

 

Lastly I reiterate, everyone realizes the importance of the gravel industry to British Columbia's economy, however, locations must be chosen and administered to limit impact on the environment, and the people's health, and water supplies.

 

The aggregate industry has hidden far too long behind the archaic 19th century Mining Act, this is the 21st century Mr. Hawes, maybe it's time to wake up.

Below, A letter from Jan Longmore, received June 13 2012

 

My name is Jan Longmore and I live in the once serene area called Lake Errock. Most of you have heard my story many times as I attended all the APP public information meetings last year and spoke passionately at each one. I will not bore you with repeating my tale of woe. However I do have a few important thoughts to convey.

When I moved to this area I saw the incredible beauty – the mountains, lake, fowl, wildlife, peace, solitude, and tranquility. I bought a lifestyle. I was told by a realtor that the gravel pits were “played out” and that there would be apparently no expansion planned in the future. Many other purchasers were told this same thing. Fast forward to now – aggregate expansion doubling and house values plummeting to the point that people are practically giving their homes away just to be able to get away from the desecration of their once beautiful mountains and the murder of their once vibrant lake.

 

The people of this area have lost huge amounts of their “retirement funds” as they are unable to regain the initial costs of their properties. It brings to mind what Minister Hawes mentioned to me when we had a meeting back in 2009. He told me that I should not be concerned as to property prices as they would “sky rocket” when the APP was approved and the aggregate permit approvals proceeded.

I still have an issue with the fact that regional mail-outs were not approved by the FVRD for the APP public information meetings and that publication in some newspapers (a small ad placed in the back pages of the paper) was deemed satisfactory. Most rural people do not receive these papers. We were told that the cost was too high and that tax payers would not condone the cost of these mail outs. Would these tax payers not wish to know what was happening with their homes, scenery, watersheds, health, and property values? It was left in the hands of the community groups fighting against the flawed and biased APP to “foot the bill” for these mail outs.

 

How wrong that was. I realize that is in the past and one should move on but at this point in time, we are now facing another public information meeting (June 26th, 2012) which is the most important meeting to be held to date and once again the directors of the FVRD are failing in their elected duties to approve a mail out. This is totally unacceptable – we have two directors (Directors Bales and Adamson) who have the decency to see their constituents’ plight and we have five directors who trivialize their constituents’ concerns and brush them off with their complacency.

 

How wrong this is. Yet, they tell me that they are fairly representing all sides and are not biased towards the aggregate producers and they take great offence at my suggestions that they are being pressured by the provincial government, Minister Hawes and the aggregate producers.

Great offence has been taken by the “powers that be” that I feel that these meetings were preordained and that the public were just being pacified and that the meetings meant nothing. I still go back to my meeting with Minister Hawes in 2009 when he said that ‘we could have our little rallies and pull out our hair by the roots and if it became too much of a problem it (the APP) would be legislated through….’

 

Of course, Minister Hawes has denied this on a number of occasions, belittling me and suggesting that I am either deaf or stupid – of which I am neither. This remark regarding legislating the APP into power was also heard by two directors of the FVRD as well as two other citizens on several occasions.

 

How could this not be preordained when Minister Hawes also mentioned at that meeting that the APP meetings would be held in early 2010 and the APP would probably be ‘up and running by June/July of 2010..’ sounds very much to me that a time frame had already been decided on.

I am deeply concerned about regulations surrounding the running of the pits. There is none. Minister Hawes told me at that same meeting that ‘we can’t expect an inspector at every pit as the tax payers would complain at the additional costs…’ he felt that regulations should be left to vigilant community members to police these pits and report complaints firstly to the pit owner and if still unresolved then to the ministry of mines.

 

The pits are private property – so therefore their operations go unmonitored. My complaints are handled with indifference and rudeness and my concerns go no further. My emails are treated the same way and if I say something derogatory (out of complete frustration) then a few of the directors will not correspond with me as they are offended by the truth.

I am deeply concerned about the increased gravel truck traffic on Lougheed Highway outside the Lake Errock and Ohman Road pits. The entry to the Lake Errock pit is a double solid line on a blind corner. Result: MOT has deemed that this entry passes their criteria and they have apparently decided to “eradicate” the double solid line thus allowing legal gravel truck turning into the pit even though that gravel pit is “exhausted” of aggregate and should have been reclaimed years ago. I feel the rules are made to fit the need of the aggregate pit operations.

I am deeply concerned about the validity of reports being created regarding the stability of the pits, our aquifers, our watershed, etc. . I know that reports can be bought and that the contents of these reports can be supportive of the individual paying for the report. The reports that I have viewed appear to be very agreeable to the aggregate industry

Truthfully, I believe, that no objection was expected and that the APP was a “done deal” in the eyes of the government (local, provincial, and regional) otherwise why the secretive (behind closed door) meetings for 5 years with the government and aggregate producers only, the gag orders imposed on the FVRD directors so that they were unable for five years to disclose to their constituents what was being planned for their communities, and the absolute refusal to send mail outs to all constituents.

 

This government prides itself on its’ transparency – none of this displays transparency, it displays covert, secretive planning whilst keeping their constituents in the dark and ignorant to the schemes which will affect every aspect of their lives and lifestyles.

To Minister Hawes and his cohorts – this is only about “Nimbyism” and is only a handful of “troublemakers” spewing fear mongering. This is not the case. I am not a “nimby” I just feel very strongly that aggregate is a necessity but that these pits should be placed in areas not surrounding communities. “Primo gravel” is everywhere.

 

I am not fear mongering, everything I have said or repeat is true. Minister Hawes feels that he is being “personally attacked” well, he has been Minister of Mines, he is my MLA, and he is a powerful advocate of the APP and the aggregate producers – this is not personal, this is about the welfare and survival of my community of Lake Errock and the residents living in this community.

I am so tired of this “game”. I am so tired of the total disregard shown by the elected representatives to their constituents who blindly believed that these officials would honestly carry out their pre-election platforms and go “to bat” for these sorely affected communities. Very naïve. Minister Hawes and other elected representatives feel offended with suggestions that perhaps they are not only being pressured by the aggregate producers but are also being strongly encouraged to accept the APP by the aggregate producers.

 

How can the ministry deny this when there are letters on file from the aggregate producers mentioning that they have been very patient and have put a lot of money into the APP and now it is time to more or less “get it moving”?

I am sure that you have “glazed” over by this time and are rolling your eyes and thinking ‘just another rant from another troublemaker residing in Lake Errock’. Maybe I am, but the other thing I am is a very concerned, passionate, caring British Columbian who still has the democratic right to voice my disdain of the present “non-transparent” government and its’ officials.

I can only hope that perhaps my words will touch your collective conscience and that you will delve deeply and have the decency to respect my concerns and to address them accordingly when making your final decision regarding the APP.
 

 

Below, A letter from Walter Neufeld, received June 14 2012

 

 

Dear Mr. Hawes,

I'm dismayed that you continue to disparage the good citizens of Lake Errock after having pushed them, and numerous BC communities, to the wall regarding the governments sanction of ongoing harmful gravel mining practices.

You accuse Reg of pushing "... out ill-informed and inaccurate information that could only be characterized as fear mongering" when you're the one who's left the public with the indelible perception that it's being persistently misinformed and misdirected about the APP's content, the APP's inherent unfair biases and the negative impacts the APP will have on BC communities in the future.

The APP is an industrial production document and its contents prove that it fails to address any of the persistent conflicts that have plagued communities across the province for decades.

There are better, more cost efficient alternatives, but you refuse to consider them. The APP is grossly flawed and unfair and is, for those reasons, unacceptable to BC communities. And that's why the APP will never be granted a social license to operate.

I suggest you apologize to Reg and the Lake Errock community and all other affected BC communities for your unwarranted affront.
 

 

 

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