Bearspaw residents urge Rocky View County to reject open gravel pit application — again

A gravel pit proposal in Bearspaw was denied in 1994, then again in 2010, and now Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. is hoping the third time is the charm, but nearby residents are opposed.

Scott property project dates back to 1994 when first application was denied

A map shows the Scott property project. Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. wanted permission to use 242 hectares for a gravel pit operation. It would have included an overland conveyor system to the company's Spyhill facility, within Calgary's city limits. (Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. )

A gravel pit proposal was denied in 1994, then again in 2010, and now Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. is hoping the third time is the charm.

But nearby residents, including former Olympian Catriona Le May Doan, say Bearspaw is not the place for this type of operation. 
Hundreds wrote to the Rocky View County council to lodge concerns about the Scott property proposal. The concerns include noise, water contamination, dust and the loss of wetlands, to name a few. 

A group of landowners raised funds to hire external consultants to study the proposal and its potential impacts on the land and community.

Public hearing coming

The gravel pit application is coming to a public hearing on Tuesday, when the Rocky View County council will examine Lehigh Hanson's request for land redesignation and development plan approval — two crucial steps the company needs to move forward with construction. 

The Scott property is a 600-acre (242-hectares) piece of land northwest of Calgary. According to the documents provided to Rocky View County by Lehigh Hanson, the site is home to wetlands and small bodies of water. 

The site is also close to several homes. 

Residents lodge concerns

Le May Doan lives in Bearspaw, a couple of kilometres from the proposed site. She said in an age when people are trying to protect the environment and their health, a gravel pit proposal doesn't fit. 

"Not only are there health risks, when you look at the mental health of our community, which is at an all-time low, you put that noise pollution in there," Le May Doan said. "There will be implications from contaminating and lowering the water table. That's a big concern for all residents."

Le May Doan said it's baffling that Rocky View County administration is recommending the project go forward. 

While she understands the deal could be lucrative for the county, she believes there's a bigger question to ask. 

"Is the value of our residents and the value of our houses not important?"

The county has grown considerably since Lehigh Hanson's first application in 1994. Le May Doan said Rocky View has strived to add density, approving residential builds near the proposed gravel pit.

Alisa Le May, Doan's sister, also lives within two kilometres of the Scott property. She's a professional geologist and has contributed hundreds of hours to fight the proposal. 

This diagram shows the proposed mining excavation operations area. (Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd.)

"I have a duty of care to protect human health and the environment," Le May said. "From an environmental standpoint, the Scott property has 48 wetlands. It is an environmentally sensitive area … that is significant and has a significant impact on wildlife, to the wetlands, to the water cycle."

She added that while her property may be adversely affected by noise and airborne particles, those living next to the pit could face serious health implications.

"What has changed is the application, which now has bigger implications," she said. "It's a bigger pit. You know, there's less setback, there's longer operating hours, there's onsite crushing."

Included in the citizens' response to the project were independent consultant reviews.

"They are vitally important because they offer a technical perspective from independent technical professionals and they have gone into the details on the application and the implications of the application," she said.

Lifetime of mine could reach 30 years

The company wants to excavate gravel on the Scott Pit site — transporting the goods directly to the company's nearby Spyhill facility, within the city limits, via an overland conveyor system. The project's lifespan is estimated to last 25 to 30 years, depending on the final mining plan and market demands.

Reeve Daniel Henn says he has seen constituent pushback on the proposal, but he would not make any comment ahead of the meeting. 

Alberta Health Services' Safe Healthy Environments was consulted in the process, reviewing several documents provided by Lehigh Hanson.

"Based on the information provided in the above reports, Safe Healthy Environments doesn't have objection to the application," the agency said.

The City of Calgary was also consulted and requested information from the company before it can proceed with certain aspects of the above-land conveyor system.

Company says it's working on environmentally, socially responsible project

A spokesperson for Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. said the company will go before the county for a public hearing about the development on Tuesday, which will be the first step in multiple needed approvals from the county, City of Calgary and the province. 

"Lehigh intends to plan and design an operation that is environmentally and socially responsible, meets or exceeds all relevant regulatory requirements and incorporates mitigative solutions where possible based on feedback from the community," the company said in an email. 

The company said the project's close-to-market location would mean lower taxes for consumers, lower emissions and fewer trucks on the road. 

The company also said it has completed several technical and environmental studies, which have been provided to the public and external agencies like AHS and Alberta Environment and Parks. The company said it's already made a change based on public feedback — adding a conveyor to transport aggregate off site for processing.