Gravel quarry project near Kelowna, B.C., rejected by regional district

·3 min read
The Joe Rich quarry project was proposed by Westbridge Rock Ventures, which operates four quarries across the Okanagan, including this one in Oyama, B.C. (Westridge Rock Ventures - image credit)
The Joe Rich quarry project was proposed by Westbridge Rock Ventures, which operates four quarries across the Okanagan, including this one in Oyama, B.C. (Westridge Rock Ventures - image credit)

The Regional District of Central Okanagan voted unanimously Thursday not to support a sand, rock and gravel quarry proposed for a rural community east of Kelowna, B.C.

Residents of the Joe Rich neighbourhood voiced their opposition to the project — a 30-hectare quarry site that would sit a few kilometres east of the city and would see truckloads of gravel hauled down Highway 33 every day for the next 40 years, according to Westridge Rock Ventures Ltd.

The company — which owns four other sites in the Okanagan — submitted an application to the province to carry out the project last December. It says the quarry is needed to meet the "growing demand for quality, crushed aggregates," and to support economic growth in Kelowna and the surrounding area.

District staff recommended that the board support the quarry based on a long list of conditions, including that the company complete environmental impact studies, and groundwater, dust and noise control assessments beforehand.

But after more than an hour of deliberation on Thursday, the district directors eventually concluded they shouldn't run against the public will — even if all these conditions were being met.

"Anybody that cares one iota about the environment can see just how much of an impact this will have on the environment," said Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin, one of the district's directors, in the meeting.

"Property values will definitely decline. I certainly wouldn't want to buy a property where there was a gravel pit next door," she went on. "It's really going to affect people's quality of life."

Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin, a director of the Regional District of Central Okanagan, said she doesn't support the Joe Rich quarry project because it will affect the quality of life of people living in the community.
Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin, a director of the Regional District of Central Okanagan, said she doesn't support the Joe Rich quarry project because it will affect the quality of life of people living in the community.(District of Peachland)

Wayne Carson, another director, said the district board needs to look at the quarry project proposal through the lens of people living in the Joe Rich neighbourhood.

"This is a rural residential community, and to put a gravel pit right in the middle of it is unacceptable," he said in the meeting. "People move out into the rural areas so that they can have some peace and quiet, and this gravel pit is not going to provide any of that for them."

The district has decided to write to B.C.'s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation to explain why it doesn't support the project.

Jim Turner, a Joe Rich resident and the head of the Joe Rich Community Quarry Taskforce, told CBC's Daybreak South on Wednesday before the district meeting that no one from the ministry had visited his community to examine the area.

"I'm in contact with the ministry … just about daily," he said. "Nothing's been done. No boots on the ground... We're frustrated with the whole process."

A blueprint of the Joe Rich quarry project drafted by Westbridge Rock Ventures.
A blueprint of the Joe Rich quarry project drafted by Westbridge Rock Ventures.(Westridge Rock Ventures)

The Black Mountain Irrigation District, which provides drinking water for 28,000 people and for more than 2,000 hectares of farmland, said it has written B.C.'s Ministry of Mines a letter outlining concerns over the potential for the company's rock blasting to destabilize the silt bluffs below and contaminate the local water supply.

"Silt soils are not the most stable soil, and if you have vibrations ... they tend to erode or they'll slump or they'll move," said Bob Hrasko, the district's administrator, on Daybreak South on Thursday, citing a history of concerns with the bluffs.

CBC requested for a response from Westridge Rock Ventures after the district's vote to turn down the quarry project, but has not heard back.