Proposed sand-gravel site threatens fish: advocates
But miner says effect on McNab Creek salmon minimal
By Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun April 18, 2012
Environmentalists are raising concerns about the potential effects of a proposed sand and gravel mining operation in Howe Sound.
A non-profit group called The Future of Howe Sound Society says the planned McNab Valley Aggregate project by Burnco Rock Products would threaten salmon and salmon habitat in McNab Creek just as Howe Sound recovers from significant environmental damage caused by over a century of industrial activities.
"This valley, only 20 minutes from Horseshoe Bay, has a key salmon-bearing river in it," society spokes-man Jeff Gau said on Tuesday of the plan on the northwest shore of Howe Sound, about 35 kilometres from Vancouver.
"Also, there's the entire food chain there. If they mess it up, you won't see the dolphins back in the sound [and] they've come back three summers in a row. This area is rich for recreational purposes.
The project, which is now under-going a harmonized federal and provincial environmental review, would include a crushing plant and marine berthing facility for barges.
Gau cited letters from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to Calgary-based Burnco, including one in 2011 stating the plan represented "a high risk to salmon and salmon habitat."
The 20-to-30-year project would cost $60 million and involve the transportation of sand and gravel processed on site to Burnco's concrete plants in Metro Vancouver, resulting in a 240-kilometre reduction in barge tow distance from the company's current source on Vancouver Island.
It's estimated the mining operation would initially result in the production of 400,000 tons of aggregate annually, increasing to 1 to 1.6 million tons in a few years.
According to a project report, the site has been subject to heavy industrial use since the 1940s and forestry activities over the last century.
The report notes that McNab Creek supports populations of chum, coho, pink and chinook salmon, cutthroat and rainbow trout and steelhead. A salmon spawning channel is also on site.
Derek Holmes, Burnco's regional manager in B.C., said the company has addressed Fisheries and Ocean's concerns and that "the project is designed in such a way that all the guidelines regarding environmental protection are at an absolute minimum.
"We love the ocean and the streams and we want to protect them as much as anybody else."
Holmes, who said 12 full-time jobs would be created at the site, hopes to have it operating in two years.
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Death of salmon by a thousand cuts. Cuts to environmrntal reviews.