Lunch & Learn #1 - Gravel Mining
Gravel mining in the Fraser Valley has long been contentious. On one hand we need gravel for roads and construction. On the other hand the mining and transport of that gravel can impact on waterways, aquatic life, forestry and area residents.
Proponents of in-river gravel mining claim that gravel removal will help prevent flooding in the Lower Fraser Valley. Opponents counter that removal of easily reached gravel does nothing to reduce flood risk and harms spawning habitat of salmon and endangered white sturgeon. Indeed a gravel mining incident at Big Bar in 2006 resulted in the death of some two million incubating pink salmon. Problems over consultation with the Cheam First Nation with regard to traditional land uses and fish habitat lead to plans for in-river gravel mining being abandoned for 2013.
In 2004 the Minister of State for Mines started the FVRD Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) in an attempt to resolve conflicts around gravel mining in the region. Since then the APP process itself has come under fire from the public for lack of transparency and public input and from industry for "infiltration of special interest groups".
Some fear that the APP, if approved, could lead to risks of foreign control of water and forest resources through a mining licence 'back door'. Clearly the conflict between concerns of local people vs powers of the provincial government highlights once again the need for local control over home waters.
For WaterWealth's first Lunch & Learn, Watershed Watch Fisheries Biologist Stan Proboszcz and FVRD Area C Director Wendy Bales spoke on the gravel mining issue.