Wednesday April 4, 2012

By-election Issue

Behind Closed Doors 

Lack of transparency, deregulation cited as hurdles facing those opposed to Aggregate Pilot Project

Released by Cynthia Berge, Actively Creating an Exceptional Society/Voice file photo


esidents of Harrison Mills and surrounding areas met last week at the request of Area C Director Wendy Bales to discuss how to proceed with conflict gravel issues in their communities.

Conflict gravel, a term that has recently become part of the Fraser Valley lexicon, refers to gravel operations that garner opposition from local residents who suffer the consequences of aggregate being mined in their communities

As per democratic decorum Director Bales provided her community an opportunity to consider available options regarding the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Aggregate Pilot Project (APP). The residents, viewing the APP as a vague, flawed document drafted without due process, chose to reject it.

The Aggregate Pilot Project was "initiated by the Minister of State for Mines in response to persistent and intense conflicts surrounding aggregate operations in the Fraser Valley Regional District. Its purpose is to develop recommendations supported by local government and industry, for new approaches that reduce conflicts and secure lone-term stable aggregate supply".

The APP was negotiated behind closed doors by a committee consisting of representatives from local and provincial government and the Aggregate Producers Association of BC (APABC). It was made public in 2009 when the imposed gag order was lifted. Important stakeholders such as the Ministry of Environment, Department of Fisheries, First Nations and impacted citizens were not consulted nor were they mentioned in the APP Recommendations Report.

How can "persistent and intense conflict" be effectively resolved if all parties involved in the conflict are not part of the resolution? This was a recurrent question asked by the public at the four APP Information Meetings hosted by the FVRD in October of 2010. At those meetings residents wisely recognized the need for impacted citizens to be represented on the APP Committee and passionately, and almost unanimously, opposed the flawed document.

To overcome alleged obstacles outlined by then Minister of State for Mining, Randy Hawes, as to why citizens were not and could not be part of the APP Committee, engaged citizens formed the FVRD Citizens Association (FCA), to eliminate the conjured hurdles. Disappointingly FCA was not welcome at the table, unsupported by both the province and local government (with the exception of FVRD Directors Wendy Bales and Dennis Adamson).

The Aggregate Pilot Project is, as stated, a pilot project. If deemed successful here in the FVRD it may become the status quo for the rest of the province for many decades to come. As residents of the resource rich Fraser Valley we recognize the need for a plan that ends conflict gravel practices and protects our vital environment. The "Heart of the Fraser" from Hope to Mission is known as one of the most productive rivers on Earth. It is our responsibility to protect it. We need an exceptional plan in place to do this not one that panders to the aggregate industry.

With the deregulation of protective government agencies and their decreased efficacy to monitor industry and its impact on the environment, citizens are concerned for the future. With an admitted lack of enforcement of current bylaws by the regional government and a demonstrated inability for government to manage the aggregate industry the public has no confidence that the APP, as written, will be the solution. We are in need of stricter regulations to protect what remains rather than free license to pillage for profit.

The costs to a community that hosts aggregate operations can be very high. Issues such as noise, dust, reduced quality of life, health and safety, decline of property values, and environmental degradation, including loss of habitat and destruction of watersheds are the very real results of aggregate mining that need to be addressed.

We say yes to a good plan but we all say no to conflict gravel and the current Aggregate Pilot Project. We need a plan that ends conflict not crushes communities. Concerned taxpaying voters are asking... is there the political will for genuine conflict resolution? We think not. We would like to be proved wrong.

We request that conflict gravel and the Aggregate Pilot Project be considered a by-election issue due to its significance in the Fraser Valley Regional District and beyond.


Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice