Fraser Valley/Victoria – After more than a decade of hard work and co-operation by the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), industry and the Ministry of Energy and Mines, there is now greater clarity for residents and industry about where and how commercial gravel operations are allowed to operate in the Fraser Valley.
“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,” said 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.”
Bennett and FVRD chair Sharon Gaetz today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pertaining to the FVRD’s new commercial gravel operations bylaw. The MOU outlines how both levels of government will work together to further harmonize permitting processes and strengthen cooperation in compliance and enforcement of commercial gravel operations in the FVRD.
“We are so grateful to Minister Bennett and the Province for levelling the playing field, providing a workable solution that will be good for the community and for industry,” said FVRD chair Sharon Gaetz. “The board is very pleased to finally have a tool that represents a step forward in achieving compromise between many competing interests.”
The objectives of the MOU are to:
- Ensure a smooth transition for operators by establishing and implementing a cooperative approach to transitioning existing operators in the FVRD to the bylaw, where applicable.
- Synchronize, harmonize and streamline the permit application processes and ongoing inspection and reporting requirements under both the Mines Act and bylaw eliminating duplication wherever possible and sharing of information relevant to permit compliance; where possible.
- Strengthen the cooperation in compliance and enforcement of the parties.
Following the extensive consultation process, and the numerous changes made by the FVRD to address industry concerns brought forward by the BC Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, Bennett approved the FVRD’s new bylaw earlier this month.
The bylaw defines areas in the regional district where the FVRD will and will not permit commercial aggregate operations. The areas also determine what, if any, additional FVRD requirements and restrictions may apply. These areas are defined as:
- Restricted Areas – commercial aggregate operations are not allowed.
- Community Areas – commercial aggregate operations are allowed but subject to additional FVRD requirements and restrictions (e.g., noise and dust limits).
- All areas outside of the Restricted and Community Areas – commercial aggregate operations are allowed and not subject to noise or dust limits. This area encompasses over 90% of the FVRD’s rural area.
All existing commercial gravel operations are located in areas where commercial aggregate operations are allowed under this bylaw.
“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” Bennett 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.
“I also want to be clear that the approval of this bylaw for the FVRD should not be seen as blanket approval for similar bylaws in other jurisdictions. Remember, it took over 10 years of extensive consultations and considerable work on the part of all parties for the FVRD to get to this point.”
The FVRD commercial gravel operations bylaw includes prohibitions on aggregate removal. Under the Local Government Act and the Community Charter, any bylaw containing such prohibition requires approval from the Minister of Energy and Mines.