Frustrated landowners opposed to gravel pit

Dale Gies is among frustrated landowners who once again marshalled their forces to oppose a proposed gravel pit near Markerville.

Dale Gies is among frustrated landowners who once again marshalled their forces to oppose a proposed gravel pit near Markerville.

Gies, who owns land just across the Medicine River from the proposed pit, told Red Deer County’s subdivision and development appeal board that his Friday appearance was the sixth time he has outlined his concerns about the project.

For Gies, the gravel pit will bring noise and dust to a rural home he chose to get away from big city din.

“If this goes through, you will be ruining a tranquil place for many more people than are here today,” he said.

About 40 people on both sides of the issue turned out for the day-long hearing into Wendell Miller’s proposal to mine gravel on 28 acres near the Medicine River several kilometres south of Markerville.

Even more turned out for a municipal planning commission in June when a motion to approve the gravel pit was narrowly defeated in a 4-3 vote.

The rejection came despite concessions made by Miller, of 6M Holdings Ltd., to dramatically reduce the size of the gravel pit from an earlier defeated 2010 application from 128 acres. He also cut back operating hours and the number of years the pit will be mined and limited gravel crushing periods.

Miller had also appealed the previous rejection but failed to sway the board.

Residents reiterated other concerns that the gravel pit is located on a flood-prone section of the river, will interfere with an aquifer and threatens a valuable walleye breeding ground.

William Wolmat, a hydrogeology consultant with Matrix Solutions Inc., said the gravel mining will have a “direct impact” on the aquifer, which has already been affected by previous gravel pit excavations in the area.

Wilmot said the studies done in support of the application did not amount to a “complete, comprehensive groundwater assessment” and more work should be done.

Fred Laux, a lawyer representing property owners, told the five-person appeal board that it is their responsibility to “drill down” into the technical information before making a decision on the project.

In her opening comments to the board, lawyer Janice Agrios, representing the gravel pit proponents, said that the project will not be allowed to go ahead until both federal and provincial departments are satisfied environmental issues have been addressed.

The board is not necessarily in the best position to evaluate all of the environmental issues that will be reviewed by experienced staff in other levels of government.

The hearing is expected to continue on Monday.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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