Passions ran high at a meeting between conservationists and the Red Deer company wanting to extract gravel near a Raven River trout stream.
About 140 people from across Alberta attended the gathering at the Butte Community Hall on Thursday to learn more about Border Paving plans to excavate gravel from below the water table for use in road projects.
Kevin Gardiner of the Alberta Conservation Association said many people got emotional at the thought of possible siltation and warming of a world-famous brown trout fishing stream.
Millions of dollars and volunteer hours were spent improving habitat along this waterway, and anglers fear this will be wasted if a gravel mine disturbs the flow of groundwater that flows into the spring-fed Raven River north of Sundre.
“There was a passionate cry from some people that they didn’t want the project at all,” said Gardiner.
He personally felt “underwhelmed” by the research presented by geological consultants, but he admitted they couldn’t fully present their case because they had to answer a steady stream of questions from the audience.
“I would say there was very strong resistance (to the project), and both sides had dug in,” Gardiner added.
Kate Walls, a co-owner of Border Paving, agreed with this general assessment.
She said she felt “scared” by the anger and loudness of some of the opinions expressed, as well as the entrenched mindset of some opponents to the project.
“There was a lot of just arguing; somebody says ‘black’ and someone else says ‘white.’”
Walls maintains her company doesn’t want to harm the environment or wildlife and is willing to work with experts and conservationists to take mitigating measures.
The company proposes to extract gravel from two quarter sections across the road from the Raven River. Walls said Border Paving would start excavating on the side furthest from the river while monitoring water conditions.
Holding this week’s meeting was the first step in the process. The next step will be filing an application with Clearwater County, along with a report that details how the company intends to respond to public concerns.
Walls expects to take several months to make this submission.