The Electoral Area Services Committee voted to issue a temporary use permit to Fraser Valley Aggregates last Tuesday that allows the sand and gravel producer to process aggregate for six years.

Gravel agreement makes the best of a bad situation at Lake Errock, EASC says

'It’s six years of torture as opposed to 20 or 30 years of torture'

A Surrey company will be allowed to crush gravel at Lake Errock property despite loud public outcry from local residents about the issue.

The Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC) directors voted to issue a temporary use permit (TUP) to Fraser Valley Aggregates last Tuesday that allows the sand and gravel producer to process aggregate for six years, subject to conditions.

“If we hadn’t passed it they’d have gone back to status quo, and I think status quo is worse than what we’ve got now,” said Alec Niemi, director of Electoral Area C, where the sites are located.

He’s referring to the 30 year non-conforming grandfather clause Fraser Valley Aggregates has with their current mining permit.

“They could just carry on under the old rules—which were no rules basically—or we could try and figure out a way to get rid of that eyesore forever,” Niemi added. “So it’s six years of torture as opposed to 20 or 30 years of torture, with far more control now than we would have had.”

That control includes shorter crushing and hauling windows. Both will be allowed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., a half hour shorter for crushing and four and a half hours shorter for hauling.

There will also be more strict noise and dust control measures, according to the approved proposal.

And professional monitoring and reporting is now required every six months for both dust and noise levels, with the first instance overseen by the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).

The change also gets rid of the grandfather clause, according to Niemi. Under that status quo, the mining license stated that the hillside had to be reclaimed only when the mine was completed.

The province had already issued a permit for a 5.5 million tonne large scale gravel extraction operation for the site, but if Fraser Valley Aggregates sticks to the proposed plan they will cut that amount to 1.37 tonnes.

“Now under this decision, at the end of three years the existing eyesore has to be reclaimed,” he said. “Otherwise it could sit there for another 20 years.”

The company will also be required at the end of year one to have submitted their development application for a residential subdivision to be build on the site.

The idea to develop a residential subdivision instead of a lengthy gravel extraction was presented to the public by Fraser Valley Aggregates in November 2014.

Former director of Electoral Area C Wendy Bales from 2008 to 2014 was at the original meetings with the applicant company before that public meeting and has also served with the B.C.’s aggregate pilot project.

She was at last week’s meeting and said the 60 people who attended and voiced their opinions were in sync.

“Everybody [in the public] was opposed to the crushing TUP just as they were at the previous meeting,” Bales said.

She also said there is no guarantee that a future council couldn’t undo what was voted on at the last meeting.

“They can reapply for another permit and they can reapply for TUPs,” Bales said. “And once you sign a contract with the gravel industry it would be very expensive to back out of that, but when it comes to guarantees to the community, there is no real guarantee.”

She’s concerned that the community is giving up their peace of mind and their health because of the dust and noise created in the crushing of aggregate.

“I can totally empathize and sympathize with the locals,” Niemi said. “I was the pastor of the church out there and so I heard the noise when there was crushing before. It’s like running your fingers down a blackboard.”

He confirms that the biggest issues were “noise, dust and trust.”

But Niemi stands by his assertion that the FVRD and EASC have a lot more teeth than before, and are able to enforce the conditions passed.

Bales said there are a lot of people who are still concerned and don’t feel like either alternative is good and that distrust still runs deep.

“There’s a lot of people who are not willing to give up fighting at this point,” she said.