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Harrison council approves letter of support to stop the quarry

Council unanimously votes in favour of citizen group’s efforts
Dennis Hill’s top concerns about the quarry include air, the community, traffic and wildlife. Hill moved to Harrison Hot Springs two and a half years ago. “We moved there because it was so quiet and peaceful and [has] nice, clean air,” he said. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

The controversial quarry conversation continued during Harrison’s most recent council meeting.

Harold Bruins of the Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs called for support from council in the ongoing resistance to the proposed quarry during the council meeting on June 15 (Monday). Bruins presented a petition before council.

The council officially approved a resolution to write a letter of support for the group opposing local quarry development.

How Did We Get Here?

In May 2017, the District of Kent Council received a staff report from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) regarding an inclusion application for ).8 hectares of land on Hot Springs Road. The ALC is closely involved concerning ongoing issues with land development and distribution in the Agassiz-Harrison and has been for several years. This ALC application was meant to compensate for a proposed trail that would allow access to the rear of 3628 Hot Springs Road for the purpose of mining. The Council approved the application, as did the ALC.

RELATED: One year later, still waiting on Kent quarry decision

A partnership of companies under the name TC Merrit Valley Farms submitted a notice of work to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in August of that same year, specifically a sand and gravel pit development application.

In March 2018, a public notice from TC Merrit documenting their intent to develop a quarry on Hot Springs Road appeared in the Agassiz-Harrison Observer, which asked for members of the public interested about the application to “make written representation” to the Ministry within 30 days of the notice. Two weeks later, the quarry opposition group from both Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs formed the Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. Four days after forming, A group of more than 200 community members met at Harrison’s Memorial Hall to speak, ask questions and sign petitions to be presented to provincial legislators. During this meeting, Harrison Mayor Leo Facio expressed his and the council’s support of the efforts to stop the quarry.

Finally, on April 18, 2018, following the Memorial Hall meeting, the petition presented on June 15 was created.

The Petition

The petition gathered more than 6,300 signatures opposing the quarry proposal for Hot Springs Road.

“Harrison Hot Springs is a peaceful tourist destination where residents, tourists and retirees can escape the noise and hectic lifestyle of the city,” the petition reads. “This petition was an outreach to members of the impacted communities and concerned members of the public to express their position on the aggregate mine application to be located at 3628 Hot Springs Road to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, along side the local and regional governments who are also opposed to the project.”

The author or authors of the petition cite a number of reasons a large number of residents have expressed their dissent. The opponents of the quarry warn readers of significant and possibly dangerous levels of quarry-related congestion that could block timely emergency vehicle access to the whole Agassiz-Harrison area. Additionally, the noise and dust from the mining operation would significantly drive down tourism appeal and “disturb the peace of the community and expose nearby residents to the negative health effects of silica dust.” Last but not least, the opponents of the quarry city environmental concerns, stating that the quarry would do significant damage to the ecosystem and worsen the status of crucial endangered species in the area.

“It would leave a permanent, hideous scar on the side of the hill,” Bruins told council.

What’s new?

On June 5, Bruins received an email from Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman sent a letter to Bruins, thanking him for an email sent on May 19, in which Bruins asked him for an environmental assessment of the proposed quarry.

RELATED: How we got here: a timeline of the quarry proposal and local resistance

“I have asked the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to consider your request and inform me of their recommendation,” Heyman wrote. “To support this evaluation, the EAO will review information about the proposed project, views of Indigenous Peoples potentially affected by the project and input from regulatory agencies.” Heyman added the agency would be in touch concerning the request.

Additional Council notes

The council received an update on the village’s reopening plan as Phase 3 of the province’s Restart Plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic is almost ready to go. Village staff reported that signage about physical distancing protocols at the outdoor racquet courts and other outdoor recreational facilities. Memorial Hall, while the current site of council meetings, is closed to bookings, even to parties of less than 50 people. At this time, when there are meetings held at the hall, there are village staff members on standby to ensure physical distancing is enforced as needed.

“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” Facio said. “Maintaining distancing is saving lives.” He encouraged the public to continue supporting local business as much as possible.

The council approved of the 2019 annual report. This report is prepared by June 30 of every year and made available two weeks prior to the council meeting in which it is approved. This year’s report was available at the beginning of June.

The council voted 4-1 to expand the synthetic outdoor skating rink, which will ultimately allow for a 120-skater capacity post-COVID-19 and about 60 while protocols remain in effect. Coun. Ray Hooper opposed the resolution. Up to $82,000 from the Resort Municipality Initiative funds would go toward the expansion.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for July 13 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall. Physical distancing measures remain in place.

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