Red Deer County council insisted on water well testing and additional landscaping to act as a noise buffer before agreeing to bylaw changes necessary for a proposed gravel pit near Delburne.
The additional requirements were agreed to in hopes of limiting the impact of the gravel pit that would be located only 165 metres from the home of Chad and Jody Young.
Coun. Dana Depalme said the 10-metre-high berm proposed as a measure to reduce noise from the pit that is expected to operate for five years does not go far enough and that trees or other landscaping should be required.
“I want these people protected,” said Depalme.
Council also said that water wells within 400 metres of the pit, about 10 km northwest of Delburne, should be regularly monitored to ensure gravel mining does not have an impact on the water supply of the Youngs and another neighbour.
Red Deer Mayor Jim Wood said the gravel pit will inevitably have an impact on the surrounding area, but he was pleased that the county approval required a noise impact assessment and dust control will be required among other conditions.
An environmental review of the project was ordered in June 2020 after council approved second reading of a bylaw to re-designate the pit site to a gravel extraction overlay district, which allows mining to take place.
The review calls on Border Paving to undertake a number of studies and plans. An erosion and sediment control and drainage plans will be required before a development permit will be approved.
A reclamation plan showing how the site will be restored is also required and money has to be set aside with the province to ensure that work happens.
Environmental studies also looked at wildlife, vegetation, wetlands and what the potential environmental impact of the project could be. Bird sweeps will take place before operations begin and biologists will conduct weekly nest searches in breeding season before the ground is disturbed.
Under Alberta Environment regulations, Border Paving must keep mining one metre above the water table. If the company hits water, it must stop operations and notify Alberta Environment.
Coun. Christine Moore sought assurances that the pit would only operate for the five years that Border Paving has proposed. That condition should be added at the development permit stage not as part of the gravel overlay approval, said county planners.
The Youngs have strongly opposed the gravel pit application. When their home was approved in 2010, the surrounding area was not identified as being part of the gravel overlay and they should have been able to assume mining would not happen next to them.
There are many other areas in the county already approved for gravel mining and the couple, who have two young children, feel mining so close to residences should only be considered as a “last resort.
“Expansion into new land areas should not be allowed or approved without depletion of existing open pits and at minimum progressive reclamation of a portion of existing operations,” they say in a submission to council.
The pit would also go into a county-designated environmentally significant area, says the couple. The county says while the pit will be in an environmentally significant area, Border Paving will stay away from the banks of the nearby Red Deer River and only mine land currently used for farming.
The Youngs, who have farming roots, say they do not oppose gravel mining. However, they argue that provincial oversight of the gravel industry has been weak and some companies have expanded their operations without the necessary approvals but faced few consequences.
County residents were concerned about the potential for gravel pit operators and nearby residents to come into conflict when the gravel extraction overlay district was created about five years ago. Residents wanted assurances that new or expanded gravel pits would not adversely affect neighbours.