Meeting excavates quarry plan, while current drilling slays other residents


Gulf Islands Driftwood Thursday, September 25, 2003 By Mitchell Sherrin The Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) has requested a public meeting to hear concerns about a Jasper Road quarry application, following submissions from government agencies and area residents. Stewart Road Residents' Association director Rosey Brenan sees the upcoming meeting as a move in the right direction. "If there is a full technical review and thorough public consultation process, I think it will be evident that this is an inappropriate location for a quarry," said Brenan. The residents' association aims to be out in force regarding the application at Saturday's Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting which begins at 1:15 p.m. at Lions Hall. Applicant Larry Bader of Salt Spring Rock Products Ltd. plans to extract 375,000 tonnes of construction aggregates over five years from a residentially zoned 3.8-hectare property on Jasper Road. "It's not a good precedent for what can happen on our island. If you can destroy a watershed, this is not good for our island. This is not what 'preserve and protect' is about." The Stewart Road residents' group hope the LTC will quash the quarry application, she said. "We will be wearing blue to protect our watersheds. We're inviting as many people as we can." Some 100 members of the residents' association have already pledged support to ensure a technical review and public-consultation process. "We're just a group of people with lives to live and this is overwhelming us." Many residents have also contacted the Islands Trust and provincial officials with their concerns, Brenan said. Internationally-recognized artists Birgit and Robert Bateman even wrote a letter to the chief inspector of mines about the proposed quarry. "We are amazed and horrified by the idea of this kind of industrial operation in a residential area and so near natural features such as an important watershed and a public park," the Batemans wrote. "Also it does not matter that the natural and rural character of Salt Spring Island is not significantly violated. Of course quarries are needed for development but there already is an approved quarry operating to meet this demand. This new proposal is not only undesirable, it is unnecessary." Local MLA Murray Coell relayed islanders' concerns to MEM and also agreed to meet with the association at a yet-to-be-determined date. Brenan believes the LTC and MEM will be compelled to conduct further health, safety and environmental impact assessments if the quarry plan is to proceed. "There's no way you can put a quarry into the wetland that's the headwaters of a watershed without having a negative impact." Safety issues at the neighbouring hiking trail are also evident, she noted. "It's laughable that you can talk about blasting 20 metres from a public trail. I mean, come on, guards in the park? That's not going to happen." There is no question that travel along Stewart Road and Cusheon Lake Road will also be endangered, she said "This is not a safe road for up to 100 gravel trucks per day." Mines inspector Bruce Reid confirmed the need for a public meeting after the quarry applicant's 30-day notice of filing expired Friday. But Reid said the meeting date has not been set. "It would be up to the applicant to set a date but he'd have to give sufficient notification to the public. That would be advertised in the newspaper." MEM has already had a "fair amount" of input from the public, Reid said. Following a public meeting, MEM will determine the next course of action. "We will review the information we receive at the public meeting, as well as what other further studies are required." Meanwhile, some islanders are already experiencing living conditions similar to those near a quarry. "It's intolerable," said Juniper Place resident Michael Linehan. He has been contending with almost two weeks of drilling since contractors began work on the second phase of the Juniper Place subdivision. "To be outside playing with our little boy in the dust and the noise is impossible." Linehan believes the sounds of trucks and rock drilling near his house will be mild compared to the noise and dust caused by a neighbourhood quarry operation. "This is just for a month and yet it's horrible. The thought that people could be subjected to noise like this, and probably much worse, for years is, to me, incomprehensible." Linehan is also appalled the MEM would even consider allowing a quarry to be permitted within a residential neighborhood. "There is absolutely no difference between this and dropping a stinking rendering plant in the middle of Ganges." Elizabeth Drive resident Joe Benge lives almost two kilometres from the rock-work site on Juniper Place but his walls have been shaking from continuous drilling. "For me, it is unbearable . . . There's nowhere in the house that's any quieter," Benge said. "When they're drilling, I have a feeling that if they put a longer drill on, they'd be in my basement." Benge can't tell where the sound is coming from or when it will end. Drilling starts at 7:30 a.m. most days, including weekends, and continues until 5:30, he said. Benge is also concerned for Stewart Road residents if the quarry application proceeds. "It just goes on and on and doesn't seem to stop. It's just endless. When it does stop, the peace is so profound, you might think you're dead for a minute. And then you think, 'God, maybe they're done.' And then the next morning at 7:30 a.m., 'Wham,' up it comes again."