Water, dust and politics – it’s déjà vu all over again
By Andy Bateman
May 1, 2009 – Lafarge North America’s application to work a
sand & gravel deposit near the Canadian border with Sumas, Washington
received a boost last Monday.
a 5-4 in favour vote, Abbotsford City Council approved the slightly revised Lafarge
application, reversing the 5-4 against vote by the same council only last
The turnaround was due in
part to a 10 acre parcel of the farmland that was removed from the original
application. The controversial parcel is owned by a councillor’s sister and may
have represented a conflict of interest. Also, another councillor who had voted
against the original application voted in support in the second vote.
As is so often the case in
the aggregate licensing process, feelings run high on the potential impact
on local water supplies and fugitive dust. The disturbance of class one
farmland was also in the mix here, with only passing acknowledgment to the
concept of aggregate extraction as an interim land use.
Sometimes it appears that
only the names, locations and dates change in these debates, while the issues,
or at least what are thought to be issues, remain similar regardless of
This particular application
is striking insofar as there was a positive outcome for the applicant, at least
for now. There is room for cautious optimism, but it seems clear that aggregate
producers still have a long way to go to build general public trust and dispel
some of the misconceptions about the industry.