A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) and the Ministry of Energy and Mines will see the implementation of the FVRD’s new soil removal bylaw.
The MOU was signed in Victoria on Sept. 27, and according to Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness, “will provide security in the siting of gravel operations for residents as well as industry, avoiding the huge industry/community conflicts that have occurred in the past.”
“This is a great day for the Fraser Valley,” Throness said. “Our economy needs inexpensive gravel, and this bylaw ensures that plenty of it will be available, but it also makes sure that gravel operations are not sited in places that are onerous for nearby residents. I think it’s a win-win situation.”
The bylaw divides areas within the FVRD’s jurisdiction into three categories: restricted areas in which no commercial aggregate operations are allowed; community areas, where operations are allowed but need to follow additional requirements and restrictions; and all areas outside of the first two categories, which are permitted to have commercial aggregate operations without the additional restrictions.
However, the bylaw won’t affect existing commercial operations, all of which are in areas that allow commercial aggregation operations.
The idea for the bylaw started over a decade ago as what was then called the Fraser Valley Aggregate Pilot Project, and has been in the making since then.
“About 13 or 14 years ago, then MLA and now mayor of Mission Randy Hawes set out to resolve the friction that often occurred between commercial gravel operators and local governments in the Fraser Valley,” explained energy and mines minister Bill Bennett.
“Now, as a result of a great deal of hard work by mayor Hawes, local government and industry, the Fraser Valley Regional District has a bylaw in place that achieves a reasonable balance and ensures a long-term supply of aggregate in the region.”
In order to come into effect, the Local Government Act and the Community Charter required that the bylaw be approved by Bennett because it included the prohibition of mining activity.
“My decision to approve this bylaw was based on my view that even with the prohibited zones set out in the bylaw, there is a sufficient supply of aggregate in the region,” he said. “In fact, the bylaw provides greater clarity for industry, the FVRD and residents by clearly identifying zones in the regional district where aggregate operations will and will not be allowed.”
However, not everyone is supportive of the bylaw that the BC Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (SSGA) has voiced their concerns against it, as they feel that it could prevent expansion of existing operations, as well as limit the development of new operations.
To address these concerns, the MOU, which limits how the FVRD can implement the bylaw, was signed. However, Bennett noted that the bylaw is specific only to areas with in the FVRD’s jurisdiction, and is not in effect Province-wide.
“I also want to be clear that the approval of this bylaw for the FVRD should not be seen a blanket approval for similar bylaws in other jurisdictions,” he said. “Remember, it took over ten years of extensive consultations and considerable work on the part of all parties for the FVRD to get to this point.”
For FVRD chair Sharon Gaetz, the bylaw is a necessary compromise between the District and Bennett.
“We are so grateful to Minister Bennett and the Province for leveling the playing field, providing a workable solution that will be good for community and for industry,” she said. “The Board is very pleased to finally have a tool that represents a step forward in achieving compromise between many competing interests.”
FVRD signs MOU with Ministry of Energy and Mines, adopts soil removal bylaw Agreement aims to reduce conflicts over gravel extraction “This is a great day for the Fraser Valley” said Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness.