Rock quarry raises concerns

Just say ‘No’ to a proposed gravel pit on Richards Trail.

That’s what some North Cowichanians are urging council to do during today’s board meeting — before handing their ruling to B.C.’s pit-licensing mines ministry.

Local folks, and municipal planner Scott Mack’s report to council, lists concerns about Richards Trail property owner Catherine Pastula’s recent public notice of application for a mines permit to build a rock quarry on Pastula Farms.

Mack’s report to council is being discussed at today’s 1:30 p.m. meeting.

Council’s deadline for comments — about the proposed quarry at 7303 Richards Trail — to the Ministry of Energy and Mines is Thursday (Aug. 21).

Worries of Wedderspoon Organic Farm owner Sebastien Martin typify those of locals fearing quarry impacts.

His letter paints pictures of an ongoing mess and past blasting-excavation at Pastula Farm while he imagines harm to the mountainside.

“This apocalyptic scenario, I am sure, is just an aberration of my creative mind but I would simply dread the apparition of a moonscape that once was a productive, active farm,” Martin says.

J. Richard Bryan supports a petition against the quarry.

“In my opinion, the risks far outweigh the potential values of the (quarry) as outlined in the application,” Bryan says, citing safety and watershed worries, taxpayer costs for any clean-up, and more.

Mack stresses the ministry has the final say on licensing the Pastula quarry, though council’s comments were requested by Victoria — comments mines’ chief inspector may write into the licence, if approved.

Mack notes North Cowichan’s bylaw controls quarrying of up to 300 cubic metres of sand, gravel or rock per land parcel, or 60 cubic metres per acre per year.

But Pastula Farm owners plan to quarry upward of 100,000 cubic metres — 25,000 cubic metres per year — Mack notes.

His report tells council of staff and citizen worries about blasting noise; the quarry being inconsistent with the rural, farming area; increased traffic and safety woes on the narrow rural road; potential harm to well drinking water and Richards Creek watershed; lost property values; impacts on Richards Mountain’s beauty; and a lack of public consultation.

Also, quarry access may need council’s approval if the operation crosses municipal land.

Staff seeks council’s nod on the following concerns mines staff should be asked to mull when debating Pastula’s licence:

She must legally survey to ensure the quarry is entirely on her property and doesn’t trespass on public land, or she must get council’s approval to cross public land.

An environmental-impact study, plus a fire-hazard assessment, noise-and-dust management plan, and groundwater-protection plan must all be done by qualified professionals — before or in tandem with any extrication on the farm, Mack explains.

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