The BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) review of the proposed Burnco gravel mine at McNab Creek (east of Port Mellon) is nearing an end, and SCRD Area F Director Ian Winn is unhappy with both the process and its conclusions.
Winn took the opportunity at the Nov. 23 meeting of the SCRD corporate and administrative services committee to outline what he described as the “significant shortcomings” in the province’s review process.
The EAO report concluded that the mine will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment, provided that mitigation measures are followed. But Winn argued that internal evidence in the report contradicts its conclusions.
Loss of fish and wildlife habitat was among Winn’s top concerns. He noted that the project approval requires mitigation plans, but none of those plans has actually been developed.
“There are no plans to be looked at yet. So, the concern from the community is that the environmental certificate will proceed without having knowledge of what will be the mitigating factors,” said Winn.
Winn also took issue with the report’s claim that the mine would cause only a 20 per cent reduction in nearby property values. “To substantiate this, it cites a study done on a gravel mine in Minnesota 12 years ago,” said Winn, noting that the EAO did not look at existing gravel mining operations on the Sunshine Coast, or consult local realtors or the BC Assessment Authority.
The fact that the Squamish Nation chose not to engage in the province’s environmental assessment process is a “red flag”, according to Winn, because “the First Nation most impacted by this lacks a level of confidence with the BC EAO on this process.”
Finally, Winn said that public consultation was inadequate. “The constituents feel they have been treated unfairly, excluded, ignored, disregarded and dismissed during the EAO process. They are frustrated, disillusioned and extremely upset,” he said.
“My opinion is that these environmental assessment reports represent a gross miscarriage of the public process and that the project review should proceed no further until a ministerial review of the process to address the issues of balance, inclusivity and respect has been carried out.”
Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne questioned whether Winn was only hearing from a few constituents who complained about the process because it didn’t produce the results they wanted, but Winn responded that concern was widespread.
“If I’d heard only from one or two people that they weren’t happy with the process then I would probably say ok, there’s always going to be one or two who aren’t happy. But when I hear from hundreds, then that’s more significant.”
SCRD directors approved a letter to the EAO, drafted by staff, recommending amendments to the draft conditions of approval. Among the conditions requested was that the SCRD be named as a referral agency, and that adequate community consultation be put in place.
The Burnco project is being reviewed by both the BC EAO and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). Public comment on the draft provincial report closed on Nov. 27. The CEAA will open a public comment period, probably in December, for their report.
If the project is approved by the EAO and CEAA, Burnco will have to file a rezoning application with the SCRD.