Changes underway in how Red Deer County manages gravel mines will be too late to stall three new pits now being proposed.
During its most recent meeting, county council started the wheels rolling on a bylaw amendment that would give its municipal planning commission the ability to either approve or deny applications for gravel mines.
Gravel pits have been a permitted use on agricultural and heavy industrial land since the county re-wrote its land-use bylaw in 2007, said county planning director Cynthia Cvik. Prior to that, gravel mining had been listed as a discretionary use, with each new application subject to MPC approval.
The new amendment would put gravel pits back onto the list of discretionary uses, Cvik said on Friday. The move would enable MPC to review new applications and attach conditions where necessary or deny them outright, she said.
It has passed first reading and will be scheduled for a public hearing during an upcoming council meeting. A date for the public hearing has not been set.
The amendment is a good step, but does not resolve concerns of local landowners who do not want to see any more gravel extracted from the confluence of the Red Deer and Medicine Rivers near Spruce View.
There are at least 19 shallow water wells in the immediate vicinity, all catching water that flows through a gravel aquifer connecting the Red Deer and the Medicine, said local resident Dale Christian,
Her family and the McKechnies are among the local landowners who draw their water from those wells. People living in the area have struggled for years to prevent property owners from mining the gravel because of concerns about the threat posed to the water supply, said Adele McKechnie.
Gravel pits also make a mess of the landscape, she said.
McKechnie supports the new bylaw, but wants the county to do everything possible to prevent the three gravel mines now being proposed from going ahead.
As it now stands, the county has no authority to prevent those three applications from going forward because they fall under the existing bylaw, said Cvik.