A divisive issue that has dominated local news lately is the debate over the economic development available through coal mines and the potential hazards such projects pose to the environment, especially with respect to water.
Crowsnest Pass council discussed another potential threat to southern Alberta’s headwaters: a proposed gravel pit to be used by the provincial government.
The request from Alberta Transportation was considered at council’s April 20 meeting. The ministry asked council to change the land designation for a plot of land just east of Crowsnest Lake (Lot 7, Block 1, Plan 9211733) from grouped country residential to a non-urban area.
Although the land is owned by the provincial government, the proposed gravel and sand operations cannot go ahead unless the zoning is changed by the municipality.
With the Crowsnest River running through much of the property’s eastern portion, Coun. Glen Girhiny expressed concern with the proposed project.
“To me, there’s no reclamation plan in there whatsoever,” Coun. Girhiny said. “It is on a watershed there, there’s a creek running through part of that property, it’s right beside a natural corridor, and I just don’t think that that’s the right place to be hauling gravel out of those places.”
Locations closer to Burmis, he added, would be more appropriate.
Mayor Blair Painter agreed the project’s proximity to the Crowsnest River was a problem.
“This encapsulates the area from where we pull water out to service our industrial park. I really have concerns moving forward with this,” he said.
“We’re all aware of the people to the east of us that are all about conserving the headwaters,” Mayor Painter continued. “This is a critical part of the headwaters, in my opinion.”
The mayor also said the lot’s size warranted better use than simply mining gravel.
Rather than passing first reading of Bylaw 1076-2021 to redesignate the lot, council unanimously voted to defer first reading until Alberta Transportation provides more information.
Specifically, council wishes to know what areas of the property will be mined, what time frame is being proposed (including when it will start and end, and what reclamation plans are in place), and if public consultation with Albertans will be held.
“Because this is the headwaters of our rivers, they should have due diligence and let the rest of Alberta know that they’re going to have a gravel pit mine right near one of the rivers that’s the headwater,” said Coun. Lisa Sygutek. “There’s a due process they’re not following that they expect everyone else to follow.”
The next council meeting will be held at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue, May 4 at 7 p.m. Online agenda packages will be available prior to the meeting at bit.ly/CNPagenda.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze