Local MLA, MP stand behind residents opposing quarry

Petition and letters delivered to provincial government Thursday

Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Jati Sidhu and Kent-Chilliwack MLA Laurie Throness have both come out in support of the growing group of Agassiz and Harrison residents opposing an application for quarry operations on a District of Kent mountainside.

Throness delivered a petition with over 1,500 local signatures to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources along with his own letter of opposition.

“Every project has to be compatible with the community that it affects,” Throness told The Observer while he waited for a ferry out of Victoria.

“There are gravel pits around Harrison that I have no problem with, but this one is so close to the community [and] it is so close to residents who are going to be negatively impacted by blasting and crushing noises.”

Throness said Harrison’s tourism industry – which draws about 600,000 visitors annually – is at risk too.

“If this hurts tourism there will be an economic impact on its nearest neighbour. So I think these are relevant criteria for me supporting my constituents in opposing the project.”

His thoughts are echoed by a statement from Tourism Harrison that says the mine “will seriously degrade the tourist experience, nullifying the millions of dollars spent by the federal, provincial and local governments in the many improvements that have made Harrison the beautiful Village it is today.

“A mine that scars the landscape, pollutes the air and produces excessive noise jeopardizes the essence of why our tag line is ‘find nature … just up the road.’”

MP Jati Sidhu also expressed support for the local group, writing in an emailed statement to The Observer that the “proposed mine is not in the area’s best interest.”

“I have written a letter to [federal Fisheries Minister] Dominic LeBlanc to make that position clear. I believe that the negative environmental consequences of this project, particularly as regards the local watershed and air quality, must be avoided,” Sidhu stated.

A small delegation of concerned locals made a presentation to District of Kent council at a meeting Monday night, asking the municipality to take a stand on the issue.

The district has been noticeably tight-lipped, citing the need for impartiality in case of future hearings.

Harrison resident Michie Vidal, a key organizer and leader of the online quarry opposition group, “Friends of Agassiz and Harrison,” was one of the presenters at the meeting.

“The mayor’s response was that they were unable to [take a stand], at this time – that they need to remain neutral until all other ministries and stakeholders had an opportunity to make submissions,” she said.

But Vidal said residents are as motivated as ever.

“It’s been such a community effort. I’m pretty impressed and overwhelmed with the way the communities have come together,” she said, adding that for now, the goal of the citizen activists is to share the message with as many elected officials as possible.

“I heard a good quote the other day – that ‘governments may issue permits, but it’s the community that issues permission.’ ”

READ: Proper engagement needed for quarry development: expert

Throness emphasized that while the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources oversees applications, the outcome is determined by an independent statutory decision-maker.

“I think that local opinion is one of a number of considerations the statutory decision-maker will have to take into account,” Throness said, when asked if the public outcry could make a difference.

“There are as many signatures on this petition as there are in Harrison…I don’t think the [decision- maker] can avoid taking their thoughts into account.”

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