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Gravel pit expansion reduced over concerns of water security

“One of our most significant concerns is source water protection. Our water treatment plant is only a few kilometres downriver from this proposal, it is the water for 32,000 of our residents. Obviously, the impact of a gravel operation on our water supply is a grave concern for us."
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Rocky View County Council gave first reading to a motion shrinking BURNCO Gravel Products' application to expand a gravel pit west of Cochrane by 944 acres.

ROCKY VIEW COUNTY— An application by BURNCO Rock Products to expand a gravel operation roughly 1.5 kilometres west of Cochrane has been scaled back after Rocky View County Council received roughly 20 letters of opposition and 26 video submissions in opposition to the proposal at the July 6 Public Hearing on the West Cochrane Pit Proposal.

BURNCO’s application would have expanded its operation by roughly 944 acres, which would have been developed in quarter sections over the next several decades.

Rocky View County Council gave first reading to a motion to direct administration to work with BURNCO to rezone a 160-acre parcel of land to a Direct Control District between Beaupre Creek and Grand Valley Creek which could be developed into a gravel pit.

The area excludes BURNCOs existing gravel pit.

Rocky View County Councillor Crystal Kissel also requested to have BURNCO work with the Town of Cochrane and the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, which insisted it was not properly consulted, to address their concerns with the application, but the motion was defeated at the hearing.

Kissel acknowledged the “contentious” tone in the conversations around the development.

She noted that she noticed a common theme in the feedback council received during the public hearing.

“What I did not hear, very few people said ‘I don’t want gravel, I don’t like gravel, I have no need for gravel.’ They all understood that we need it. Given the size of this, that was the problem,” she said. “We already know this is an environmentally sensitive area. There are creeks, there are riparian areas, there’s a river, there’s a town, there are all kinds of things going on here … I think it’s critical that this council get this right.”

Kissel applauded the ranchers and farmers in the region who have been stewards of the land and have played a big part in preserving the area’s natural beauty.

Rocky View County Council, Kissel said, has an obligation to manage these developments in a “methodical” way that has the smallest impact on their neighbours. 

“Right now, BURNCO has a gravel pit that has about 15 years of gravel in it, so we have the time to do this right. We have the time for BURNCO and administration to work with the Stoney Nakoda and the Town of Cochrane,” she said.

Given the recent tone in the media regarding Indigenous children found in unmarked graves near Residential Schools this step in the process is particularly important at this time, Kissel said. ,

“I think it’s very important that we give the Stoney Nakoda the time they need to do the studies that make them certain that they are fine,” she said.

Drew Hyndman, manager of development and community services with the Town of Cochrane indicated that the Town had several unresolved concerns with the project.

Traffic safety, source water protection, dust control, the Great Trail, a pathway expected to connect Cochrane and Canmore, and future developments were all among the concerns held by the Town, Hyndman said in a video submission to Rocky View County.

“One of our most significant concerns is source water protection. Our water treatment plant is only a few kilometres downriver from this proposal, it is the water for 32,000 of our residents. Obviously, the impact of a gravel operation on our water supply is a grave concern for us,” he said. 

Hyndman asked for the opportunity to work with both Rocky View County and BURNCO to address those concerns and fully understand the potential impacts on the water supply of the Town.

“At this time, we would request that council table this proposed bylaw so we can address these outstanding concerns,” he said.

Although the application was significantly scaled back, County Councillors acknowledged that BURNCO could reapply in a year’s time to expand the West Cochrane Pit further.