Mined-out gravel pits could become wetlands and wildlife habitats under an idea being pitched by Lacombe County.
When county-owned gravel pits are depleted, they must be reclaimed to the satisfaction of Alberta Environment. But what is left is often difficult to turn back into farmland.
“What we end up with is a big water pond,” county manager of operations Phil Lodermeier told county council on Thursday.
Creating wetlands out of gravel pits also provides a way to spend the compensation the county is required to pay Ducks Unlimited in lieu of wetland habitat lost to projects such as road construction. For instance, in 2011 the county paid Ducks Unlimited $31,000 in compensation for wetlands lost on one construction project and $9,300 is due this year on another road project.
Lodermeier said one of the disadvantages with that system is that Ducks Unlimited is not required to spend the money in the county. It is only restricted to Alberta, and the organization picks where and when the money goes toward a wetland project.
Lodermeier said there are two gravel pits, owned by the county and Alberta Transportation, nearing the end of their lives just north of the county offices, which are on Hwy 12, about three km west of Hwy 2.
“Overall, it seems a great place to start to replace some of the damage we’ve done in road construction and other projects,” said Lodermeier.
Another pair of pits that could be converted to wetlands are located south of Blackfalds near Hwy 2A and Secondary Hwy 597.
In both locations, there are privately owned pits that could be used to boost the size of the wetlands even further.
Coun. Dana Kreil expressed enthusiasm for the idea, and wondered if picnic sites could also be created.
“I think it’s a great use and it helps us to become environmental stewards,” she said.
County Reeve Ken Wigmore also expressed his support. “I think it’s a great plan.”
Council unanimously supported staff continuing discussions with Alberta Environment and Water and Alberta Transportation to identify potential wetlands sites and work out reclamation details.