Gravel Glut Leaves Few Interested

The rock is beginning to roll on local rivers


espite low prices and a more than adequate supply of gravel available, extraction is still taking place on local rivers. The City of Chilliwack says that "Gravel removal operations have negative impacts to City residents and infrastructure, but these are outweighed by the positive flood protection benefits created by the (Flood Control Management) program."


On The Chilliwack River

Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley are leading the charge against Southview Sort's gravel pit proposal and have agreed to meet with officials at the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources on July 12.


"We'll be telling them that we want official protection for the Recreational Corridor in the Chilliwack Valley. said Glen Thompson. "That same night we will announce the Recreational Corridor zoning proposal at the Official Community Plan meeting with the Fraser Valley Regional District."


In another related development, the FVRD has decided to hold public consultations into the Aggregate Pilot Project that marks the CRV as an environmental red zone with no aggregate removal. It may prove too little, too late.


On The Vedder River

Further down the Vedder, the flood control management program will see 36,700 cubic metres of gravel removed from city-owned land and another 100,000 to 250,000 cubic metres taken from the Fraser River.


According to a city engineering report, currently there is a gravel glut and due to low prices there isn't a lot of enthusiasm in Vedder aggregate. In fact, there is such little interest that the city only received one bid on the Vedder contract.


At Monday's City Hall meeting council will be signing-off on a deal with Universal Contracting to remove and sell 36,700 cubic meters of gravel from eight sites at two city-owned locations on the Vedder River. The procedure happens every two-years in order to allow pink salmon to spawn.


The contract calls for 12,200 cubic metres to be removed from Greendale Bar and sold for 30 per cubic metre and 24,500 cubic meters to be removed from Yarrow Community Bar and sold for 65 per cubic metre. Abbotsford and Chilliwack will remove a combined total of 138,400 cubic metres from the river between July 15 and September 15.


The $15,925 they get for the Greendale gravel and the $3,360 for the Yarrow gravel extractions the city says will go toward funding for surveys, modeling and environmental monitoring of the flood way.


Unfortunately, the report also said the Vedder Rotary Trail will be affected by temporary closures once the process begins and trucks will be using the dike to transport the aggregate.


Given the amount of gravel for removal and if a dump truck can carry 10 cubic meters of wet rock, that's works out to about 3,670 truck trips on the dike.


On the Fraser River

The area between Hope and Mission on the Fraser River has been named "Gravel Reach" because each year 230,000 cubic metres is deposited in that stretch of river at Harrison Bar.


Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set the timeline for removal between January 1 and March 15 and Lehigh Northwest Materials is contracted to extract between 100,000 and 230,000 cubic meters of gravel depending on water levels. Once operating, the company will temporarily stockpile the aggregate on their Tower Rd. site or take it to their gravel processing operation on Wolfe Rd.


The same regulations apply to the Fraser River extraction however there are more regulations. The DFO requires the company provide hydraulic assessments, surveys, environmental monitoring and partake in a White Sturgeon sampling program. And the monitoring has to continue for three to four years after each extraction.


Emergency Management BC (EMBC) gets it's funding from the Province's Flood Protection Program and administer the 2010/11 Gravel Management Program with operating budget of $651,000 this year. Environmental monitoring of the Harrison Bar project will cost $552,645. The difference of $98,355 will be set aside for new sediment removal projects.


City roads were chewed up during the last two extraction projects and the engineering department is worried about the impact that gravel extraction will have on the roads. The problem they say, can be alleviated in part by having the trucks use dike roads and gravel roads as much as possible to transport the gravel but some road damage will happen if Lehigh trucks it to the Wolfe Rd. site.


Due to the "extraordinary and significant increase in truck traffic" EMBC get's "numerous complaints" from residents during the extraction process and the city roads takes a beating. They don't budget for road repairs and defer those costs to the gravel company.


The City of Chilliwack charges a Soil Removal and Deposit fee of 50 per cubic metre however those monies are applied to road maintenance as opposed to the major road damage that occurs.


If the costs become inhibitive then companies won't bid on the contracts and the gravel won't get removed and the risk of flooding in the Fraser Valley becomes more of a reality.



Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice