Saturday February 19, 2011

Environment 

The Gravel Grapes 

Residents rail against conflict gravel at Harrison Mills meeting tonight

Submitted by Glen Thompson, FCRV

 

The Four Pillars of the Aggregate Supply Plan

 

he Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) began in 2004. The APP committee members are: the Minister of State Mining, the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources (MEMPR), BC Aggregate Producers Association (APABC) and the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). The main objective of the APP is to end conflicts related to aggregate production and extraction. The APP is flawed and cannot achieve this objective.

The APP is floundering and unlikely to be completed anytime soon. The Aggregate Supply Plan (ASP) was created to fix the APP so that it can achieve its objective.

The ASP was inspired by the need for communities to find a solution to Conflict Gravel. Conflict Gravel occurs where mining operations irritate homes and habitats to the point that uncontrollable land use battles erupt.

During the APPís public consultation, citizens repeatedly made it understood that they donít want the APP because it does not resolve ongoing disputes between miners, and homeowners. The public and the FVRD were frustrated by the absence of an effective plan to mediate conflict. The stated objective of the APP is to end conflict. At the conclusion of the public consultation process, we decided the only way forward was to respond to the deep fundamental flaws of the APP. It was clear public intervention would be the only remedy that could rescue the APP from failing to meet its objective.

Handicapped by a thousand provincial strings and constraints and bound by the gravel companies high expectations of the APP deal, the FVRD was not positioned or empowered to make changes to the APP. The APP in its incomplete state did not include key items that are essential to achieving conflict resolution. The public initiated the ASP to complete the APP.

These key items termed, Ďthe Four Pillars of the ASPí are:

The ASP will balance the APP Committee by including direct public representation. The ASP has a concise strategy with mechanisms designed to mediate and resolve conflict. The ASP is inclusive and fair to impacted communities and to the gravel industry.

Conflict Resolution Strategy

The ASPís concise conflict resolution strategy encourages negotiation by supporting the use of mediation and encouraging the publicís role to be elevated to that of the other parties. Mediation by an independent third party such as the Justice Instituteís Conflict Resolution Centre would not only be consistent with the goals of the ASP, it would give the final agreement legitimacy. To close the expertize gap between the government, industry professionals and the public, a number of things can be done. The public can form a society to represent their interests and to act as a balance to the industries APABC. Balanced representation for all impacted communities can be secured by appointing independent legal counsel to act as the publicís chief negotiator. Furthermore, ongoing guidance will be sought from West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), a provincial leader in conflict resolution. WCEL will oversee negotiations so that all communities are treated fairly at all times during the negotiation process. The concise strategy relies on, delegating to respected independent third parties who will frame mediation and dispute resolution.

 

Formal Public Participation in the APP Committee

The APP Committee is dominated by industry and government mining interests. Note the province is represented by the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources but the committee does not have representation from the Ministry of the Environment. To offset the pro-mining bias of the committee, direct public representation is needed. In particular the public presence will balance the unelected gravel industry lobbyists. To some extent, FVRD directors represent the public, but they also represent business interests. FVRD directors cannot help but be influenced by the many political and financial matters they have involving the Provincial Government. The influence is evident by observing their voting record.

 

A Community Impact Assessment

Much of the Impact Assessment work has been started by the APP, through public meetings and from the governmentísí previous examinations of the impacts that aggregate production has had on communities. A study to complete and consolidate this information is required as a basis for negotiation. The ASP will be the framework for identifying and resolving these community specific concerns. A time limit and spending cap seem to be desired by the FVRD and the gravel industry and are also supported by communities who seek an end to conflict. Property devaluation, safety of residents, specifically children, hauling routes, the effect of silica dust (a class one carcinogen), operating hours and other important issues must be listed in an impact study so that they can be presented in mediation.

 

Consideration of the Natural Environment

Quite surprisingly, the environment is not considered or mentioned in the APP. This fact was submitted to the Cohen Commission Study of the Collapse of the Sockeye last fall. The APP does not consider salmon even though it maps extraction sites containing salmon habitat. DFO has not been consulted by the APP Committee. Aquifers, species at risk, erosion, tailing ponds, reclamation standards and other major environmental issues have not been considered and need to be included in the scope of negotiations. The Fraser Valley is a well-studied area. The Fraser Basin Council, the Fraser Valley Conservancy and other NGOís specialize in and are capable of identifying sensitive areas. These sites should be subject to environmental reviews before extraction is considered.

According to the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources aggregate is the most common substance on the planet. In Hope the community wants more jobs. The Green Party has suggested more mines be used in the Hope area to supply Vancouver with gravel. The gravel can be shipped quite economically by rail.

Glen Thompson is a Chilliwack River Valley resident and director of the Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley an environmental protection group and regular contributor to the Voice.

 

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