Proposed gravel pits potentially a cause for concern

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Mountain View County has mailed out the proposal, or Comprehensive Site Development Plan, to redesignate three quarter sections ó about 480 acres ó from agriculture to aggregate extraction, more commonly known as a gravel pit. These properties are just to the east side of the airport and border the Town of Sundre to the south. This proposal is for Mountain View County operations. We are expecting Rolling Mix Concrete to propose another quarter section to the east of this soon ó this is even more property than Rolling Mix recently talked about within the Town of Sundre.

The proposal includes mitigation measures to some of the issues that were identified at or after the public open house held on March 15. The usual concerns raised for a gravel pit application include the following: dust, noise, traffic, damage to the environment, lack of reclamation and contamination of the aquifer. Then there is the issue of cumulative effects from the other six currently active gravel pits within four miles of the municipality’s boundary to the west that covers approximately 900 acres that have seen minimal reclamation.

These newly proposed pits raise another unique concern to residents of the Town of Sundre. The county says it will not develop within the defined flood plain, but will excavate beside it, below the flood plain level and above the water table. The county proposes that the end use, in about 150 years, would be a day use regional park ó another way of saying a very large extended flood plain.

One problem with this is that the water table beside an active river changes with the seasons and the county has not defined which level they would use as reference. Depending on the level they use creates the potential severity of the next problem. During a flood situation, the day use regional park fills with flood waters, causing the surrounding water tables to rise. The surrounding water tables are within the Town of Sundre and could cause damage to utilities, sewer backups, and basement flooding.

The county’s municipal development plan requires that a proposal consider the impacts of gravel pit operations on adjacent lands, but there is no mention of these unique issues in this proposal, even though they were identified after the public open house.

The issues I raise here are specific to the residents of the Town of Sundre and I would urge residents to seek out more information. Mountain View County is taking written concerns with respect to the proposal until Aug. 16.

ó Robin Tudor, president of South McDougal Flats Area Protection Society

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