North Raven issue stirs passion

The recent two-part column on the threat to Alberta’s top trout stream, the North Raven River, from a proposed gravel pit operation adjacent to the springs that are its sole source has sprung a gusher of reader comment.

The recent two-part column on the threat to Alberta’s top trout stream, the North Raven River, from a proposed gravel pit operation adjacent to the springs that are its sole source has sprung a gusher of reader comment.

Bob Kreutzer writes that he partially disagrees with livestock having been the cause of the silting that practically killed the stream in the 1960s.

“How about passing some of the blame onto the beavers that have backed up the water on numerous occasions, creating soggy banks and causing silt to settle?” he asks.

Yes, them too; nobody likes to mention it, but the national rodent is still a problem: the North Raven Restoration also created a perfect beaver environment and constant beaver control, including blowing dams, is required.

Outdoors writing colleague Duane Radford retired as director of fisheries for Alberta’s former Fish and Wildlife Division.

Duane writes that in 1997, a 125-acre site at the source springs of the North Raven River was purchased by the Crown from the Leavitt family for $152,695 of Buck for Wildlife (sportsmen’s money) to ensure the continued integrity of the North Raven.

Then, in 2001, the Alberta Fish and Game Association, Trout Unlimited, and Alberta Conservation Association, to further protect groundwater supplies to the North Raven, purchased the Stainbrook Springs site for $139,000. The proposed Hankinson Gravel pit is adjacent to this site.

These funds are a drop in the aquifer to the millions of dollars and thousands of hours of volunteer manpower that have gone into restoring the North Raven River into the healthy environment it is today as Alberta’s top trout stream.

Several readers have asked how they can “just get a look at” the North Raven’s source springs. Basically, drive west past the Butte Hall, watch for the signs and walk in.

Coincidentally, in the past couple of weeks, a feature story by Margaret Munro of Postmedia News has been appearing in Canadian newspapers on the efforts of Canada’s chief hydrologist, Alfonso Rivera, and his team, to probe, study, map and model Canada’s underground aquifers.

“Groundwater,” Rivera says, “as opposed to surface water we can see, is used by millions of Canadians and feeds springs, wetlands, rivers and lakes, but not a lot is known about it.”

Certainly not enough, I say, to risk our aquifers with gravel pits, or pollute them with fracking poisons, which is entirely another matter.

Glen Mainland, a landowner along the North Raven, emails a copy of his letter from Eleanor Pengelly, development officer of Clearwater County, advising that the Municipal Planning Commission will be deciding the developer’s gravel pit application.

Prior to that meeting, the commission will be sending out a referral package to solicit comment from agencies, adjacent landowners and other affected members of the public who can ask to be added to the referral list.

Everyone concerned, from the Environment-Sustainable Resource Development minister on down to the many master fly fishermen who are having a vintage season on the North Raven, should get on the list and send their comments to the commission.

Lane and Margie Moore, who retired recently from operating the Lazy M guest ranch on their beloved North Raven, and beside which they still live, email me this: “We’re SURE the gravel company is not aware of just how SPECIAL this little gem of water is (do you think they REALLY care?) … On the other hand, we’re sure that many Clearwater County members know and understand the importance of this stream (hopefully THEY care enough!)”

A wise warning and a plea for a little press comes from Dale Christian, a member of various residents’ groups in the Red Deer-Medicine Rivers confluence area who have interminably been fighting against mining gravel in and around the prime walleye spawning springs along the west bank of the Medicine near where it flows into the Red Deer.

“We, the walleye folks,” Christian writes, “are facing the sixth attempt in the last three years by two closely-aligned gravel proponents. Red Deer County has said no three times and the appeal board has twice upheld the county, but here we are again at the appeal board, which is going to cost the same $50,000 out of a few local residents’ pockets to defend the MPC position.”

This is a prime example of the free rides doled out to despoiling developers in this province. Why should local residents have to fight and pay to preserve public resources? Where is Alberta ESRD and Water Resources, and federal Fisheries and Oceans in all this?

At the very least, the legislation should give the commission and appeal board the power to order the losing developer to pay the total costs of the citizen opponents to these repeated uncaring attacks on public resources.

Better still, the power should be there for the appeal board to order that it’s over; that one kick at the gravel pile — and the priceless springs that run through it — is all you get.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at bscam@telusplanet.net.

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