Tuesday April 3, 2012

Gravel Grapes

The Peachland Protocol 

Will FVRD disempower itself, 60 days before winning the right to control Conflict Gravel?

Submitted by Glen Thompson, Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley

 

pril 10th the FVRD are set to pass phase 1 of the Aggregate Pilot Project (APP). The Pilot was pitched as a provincial model for regional and municipal governments to regain control of conflict situations that erupted between aggregate producers and affected communities. Ironically the industry friendly deal could leave the FVRD as the least powerful region in the province, in controlling Conflict Gravel disputes.

 

If the APP passes the FVRD will abolish by-laws that limit and regulate gravel extraction. The FVRD has claimed they are not able to enforce the by-laws due to the high cost of legal fees and the uncertain outcome in court. The FVRD admits the APP will end local control of gravel. They claim that although the APP is less desirable than continuing with the current by-law regime, that the APP is the only mechanism that is enforceable. They claim that the FVRD desires to control industry, as demonstrated by their by-laws, but that cost and uncertainty of enforcement renders their level of government powerless.

This makes some sense until you look at the small Okanagan community of Peachland. Like the Chilliwack River Valley, Yarrow, Lake Errock and many other parts of the province, Peachland has a gravel war raging between residential neighbourhoods and mining companies.
 

Peachland reacted to the conflict in the same manner as the FVRD, it passed by-laws to regulate gravel extraction. What was different in Peachland ,was that when industry ignored the by-laws, Peachland went to court. Little Peachland challenged the Provincial Mines Act in 2010 and unlike the FVRD they are upholding their by-law. While the case works its way through the system, Peachland returned to court and won an injunction that shut down the gravel pit until the case is resolved.

The Peachland case will decide if municipal and regional governments can write by-laws that limit gravel mining.

 

If Peachland is victorious, small communities all over the province will be empowered to regulate gravel extraction. The case will be heard in Kelowna Provincial Court in the next 2 months. The FVRD have for over a decade tried to achieve the same control with its own by-laws. It appears they are about to give up on local control just 60 days before Peachland potentially wins the battle for them.

Ironically, the FVRD will be the only disempowered region in the province unable to control gravel extraction because they have voted they away their own regulatory powers by passing the APP. We can only hope they table next week’s vote on the APP and pause until the Peachland decision determines the role regional and municipal governments have in regulating Conflict Gravel. One would think that after 10 years of trying to resolve this issue the FVRD would not rush the APP through, only to find it outdated and inadequate a month later.
 

 

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