Clearwater Country residents oppose proposal for frac sand facility

Rural Clearwater County residents are uniting to oppose a proposed frac sand facility near Leslieville.

Rural Clearwater County residents are uniting to oppose a proposed frac sand facility near Leslieville.

Mary Forster is among 11 neighbours who have joined forces and hired a lawyer to appeal Clearwater County’s development approval for the $15-million trans-loading centre that Edmonton-based Di-Corp wants to build about three km west of Leslieville.

Forster lives only about 400 metres from the site and is concerned that the 30 trucks coming and going from the site each day are more than local roads can handle.

There is only room between Hwy 598 and a rail crossing on Alhambra Road, which runs north south, for a large truck and a car, she estimated.

“Then it’s going to back up on Hwy 598, which is a skinny Alberta highway,” she said.

The highway speed limit is 90 km/h, which she believes will create a dangerous situation if vehicles suddenly come upon others stopped on the highway.

Residents also fear that a rail spur line that will be created for the fracking sand facility will mean a constant racket as cars are coupled and uncoupled.

Forster said the facility will also ruin the view for residents like her and her husband, who have a beautiful view of the distant mountains, a feature that drew her to the property 30 years ago.

Six 30-metre silos will be built and a conveyor system will loom about another 20 metres above the silos.

Forster’s son and his wife and their two children live nearby and have the same concerns, as do others.

There are other locations that are zoned industrial with railway access that would be a better fit for the facility, she said.

Di-Corp project manager Hubert St. Jean said the company spent a lot of time evaluating sites to find one that would have the least impact on landowners and agricultural land.

A traffic impact assessment prepared for the project, which was reviewed and approved by Alberta Transportation, does not foresee any traffic problems posed by the project, said St. Jean.

“The net impact on the road is less than six per cent increase in volume,” he said.

Only about one car uses Alhambra Road every five minutes and there is room for 13 vehicles between Hwy 598 and the rail crossing.

While no problems of traffic backing up on Hwy 598 are anticipated, the company has agreed through a development agreement with the county to make road improvements if that does become an issue, he said.

Train service is off peak hours so “it’s relatively slow traffic volume during the time frame of the rail servicing our site.”

As to rail noise, St. Jean said rail cars will be dropped off during normal daylight hours. The company has its own slow-moving rail car mover to shift the cars.

“It’s not like a locomotive at all,” he said. “It doesn’t create the same volume of noise you would have with a rail yard.”

A facility of this size will inevitably affect someone’s view, but the company tried to affect as few landowners as possible.

Prior to working its way through the county’s approval process, the company met with adjacent landowners to try to address their concerns, he said. A second meeting was held for the general public.

If the project’s approval is upheld, construction would start by the fall and be completed next February.

Marianne Cole, of the Clearwater County Taxpayers Association, said they got involved in the issue at residents’ request and are helping with research and advice ahead of the hearing.

A meeting of residents a few weeks ago drew more than 90 residents. A second meeting drew another 65.

At a May hearing to rezone 33 acres of farmland to industrial for the project, the association presented a letter of opposition signed by 91 residents.

Besides the noise and traffic issues that concern residents, the association believes council was not listening to the concerns raised by landowners.

Only three councillors sit on the municipal planning commission, which approved the development permit. That does not even represent a majority of council, she said. Two citizens-at-large also sit on the commission.

Cole believes other counties, such as Red Deer and Lacombe, are more responsive to residents because their planning commissions are comprised of all members of council.

Forster is expecting a big turnout on July 29 at the county’s subdivision and development appeal board hearing at the county offices in Rocky Mountain House. The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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