Gravel pit hearing draws big crowd

Red Deer County approval allows controversial gravel pit to go to next approval step

A controversial proposed Red Deer County gravel pit can move forward despite neighbour opposition.

In a council chambers packed with 75 people, council voted 5-2 to include the proposed gravel pit site about six km south of Markerville in a gravel overlay district, allowing it to proceed to the next approval stage.

Howell’s Excavating Ltd. wants to mine about 2.1 million tonnes of gravel in phases over 20 years on about 122 acres.

The gravel pit is a long way from final approval. Howell’s Excavating must apply for a development permit from the county, backed up noise, traffic and other studies.

Alberta Environment and Parks approval is also required.

Adele McKechnie, who lives next to the future pit and has been a vocal opponent of it along with other members of the Medicine Flats Aquifer Committee, said they are not convinced the danger of the pit to local groundwater supplies and other concerns will be addressed.

“We’re worried. We’re scared, quite frankly,” McKechnie said following the public hearing.

“Our experience with Alberta Environment is that they do what they can, they ask lots of questions, they ask (proponents) to go back for more consult and that sort of thing, but they don’t stop things.”

Two dozen people addressed council in the 3 1/2-hour public hearing, about 15 against and 10 for.

Many raised concerns about noise, dust, traffic, impact on fish and the danger of putting a gravel pit on what locals consider a flood plain. There was also much frustration that area residents have had to repeatedly rally to oppose a number of other similar proposals at the same site.

A number of county residents who live near gravel pits supported the project, saying they had not had any problems with the operations near them.

Dusty Howell, owner and partner in Howell’s Excavating, was pleased with council’s decision, stressing there will be much work to be done to get Alberta Environment approvals.

“We’re confident we will do that. We did all our due diligence prior to this and if we didn’t feel 100 per cent that this was a viable pit that could balance the community and the environment and the economic needs of Central Alberta we wouldn’t have gone forward with it.”

Several councillors also stressed that Tuesday’s approval did not mean the project could go ahead and there will be many conditions to be met.

“I trust they will meet the conditions or it just won’t occur,” said Coun. Connie Huelsman.

Mayor Jim Wood proposed delaying third reading for two weeks to give council more time to digest the information it had been provided. The motion was defeated 4-3.

Councillors Christine Moore and Jean Bota opposed taking the gravel pit to the next step.

“I think there are too many unknowns,” said Moore.

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