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Gravel pits study stalls

While the regional aggregate study has stalled due to lack of funding from industry and senior government partners, the Regional District of Central Okanagan is looking for other ways to prioritize the applications for gravel pits that keep getting turned down.

The regional district will be applying to other funding sources to get the aggregate study going.

Most of what needs to be done locally is mapping, with the last work being done in 2001. If the study goes ahead, there would be an extensive public process on where gravel pits should be located in the Okanagan.

CORD Director and Lake Country Mayor James Baker said the regional district is still hung up on who’s paying for the aggregate study.

The gravel industry was initially intended to contribute to the study. While the project has stalled out, Baker noted the regional district still needs to establish criteria, and nail down what makes urban mining possible in some areas but not in others.

Director and West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said objecting to all gravel pit applications dilutes the regional district’s message.

“I think we have to find a way to break this logjam fairly soon,” said Findlater.

Robert Hobson, the CORD chairman, said regional partners put in $60,000 for the work of the study, on the understanding that there would be contributions from the aggregate industry and senior government.

“We would not undertake this work without funding from the other partners,” he said.

Hobson pointed out that at the time, neither industry nor government wanted to contribute to the work.

He added the gravel industry has been at loggerheads with government over a similar study conducted in the Fraser Valley. An attempt to get the funds from mining permits failed after it was made clear that $240,000 would take a long time to gather from individual permits.

Director and Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd noted the study is just a way of realizing how to agree or not agree to gravel pits.

She said the issue could potentially be included as an item in the regional district budget.

Director Keith Fielding, the mayor of Peachland, said he was in favour of CORD moving the process ahead as fast as they can. He pointed out the regional district cannot act unilaterally on the matter, and the study has to be done in partnership with senior government and industry.

“Unless the province is part of this, it’s a waste of time,” said Fielding.

Central Okanagan West Director Jim Edgson noted there are other gravel pits out there that the district should probably have gone ahead with. He pointed out that if the district proceeds, they should keep in mind that rejected applications could have gone forward under a new system.

He added that putting in a new system would mean both taking a look at the other pit applications, and that the regional district would look like they caved in.

“The reason we’ve been so adamant on this is we wanted to show the province we were firm on this... Everyone needs to realize we’re doing this for the betterment of the Central Okanagan in spite of the province,” said Edgson.

Director Duane Ophus said he was not sure the regional district would ever be in complete agreement with the provincial or industry perspectives on sand and gravel.

“Our move should be to come up with an interim policy to deal with applications as they come forward.”

He pointed out that trying to come to complete agreement isn’t going to happen, and the areas most unsuitable for gravel mining are obvious.

Central Okanagan East Director Kelly Hayes said the policy under discussion was meant to send senior government a message.

“I’m disappointed that we’re bending our policy, watering down our policy if anything.”

Hayes added there is no logjam of applications, and what the board is doing is trying to create one to grab the government’s attention.

Hobson noted an interim policy would cover the period between now and when federal gas tax funding becomes available.

“We can’t just continue to put applications on hold for 18 months to two years.”

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