The Howe Sound economy will be "significantly damaged" if the Burnco gravel mine project goes ahead at McNab Creek, the Future of Howe Sound Society (FHSS) warned Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors last week.
In a presentation to the SCRD's planning and development committee on Jan. 17, FHSS director Lea Bancroft said his group is preparing an economic impact study for the Howe Sound area in advance of its planned April 13 community forum.
"We realize that the economics will play a big role in the outcome of any decision that you make," Bancroft said.
Last November, the SCRD delayed first reading of Burnco's rezoning application to process sand and gravel at McNab Creek, northeast of Port Mellon. The mine proposal is the subject of a federal/provincial environmental assessment, but Burnco also needs the zoning on the 77-hectare site changed from rural to industrial to allow construction and operation of the processing facility.
In a letter presented at the Jan. 17 meeting, FHSS spokesperson Jeff Gau said approval of the Burnco project would be "an enormous step away" from the SCRD's We Envision sustainability plan and "is fundamentally against the Howe Sound Community Forum principles of cooperation, which the SCRD is signatory to."
While the heaviest impact would be borne by the McNab Creek Strata landowners and other communities in the area, Gau said the project would also hurt tourism, eco-tourism, the film industry and commercial and recreational fishing.
"The ongoing economy of this area would be significantly damaged, in favour of an extremely limited number of resource-extraction jobs, based on relatively low-skilled labour," Gau wrote.
Representing Thunder-bird Yacht Club, Bill McNeney said his group alone contributes more than $160,000 annually to the Coast economy, with about $95,000 spent in Gibsons and $38,000 in Pender Harbour. The club is based on Gambier Island, but leases moorage in Gibsons, Pender Harbour and other out-stations.
Some of those dollars could disappear, McNeney said, if the Burnco project goes through, as "the industry has a reputation of being noisy, dusty and generally not a good neighbour," he said. "We feel the location is inappropriate."
More than 1,600 people have signed the FHSS petition opposing the Burnco project.
Bancroft said he and other FHSS members who attended the committee meeting were there to ensure that recent improvements to Howe Sound will continue.
"Over the last 50 years we've all been privileged to see Howe Sound go from a mainly industrial community to a growing healthy land of sustainable industrial, commercial, recreational and residential user groups. We're just generally concerned that the ongoing growth of these mixed user groups, with their growing tax base, will be jeopardized by the return of non-sustainable resource extraction over the next 20, 30 years with little if any benefit to local society," Bancroft said.
He also noted that there was no intention by FHSS to recruit the SCRD to lead the process of developing a comprehensive management plan for Howe Sound.
"We appreciate your input, but it's really the Future of Howe Sound Society that will take on the burden of work associated with the community forum," he said.
Since the April 13 forum date conflicts with the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Com-munities convention in Sooke, SCRD directors said they would not be able to attend.
The committee did, however, pass a recommendation to write the B.C. environmental assessment office emphasizing the need for economic and social impacts to be examined during the Burnco application review. Directors also instructed staff to post all correspondence related to the file on the SCRD website.
In November, a Burnco official said the Calgary-based company was "very dedicated" to the project after four years of planning and had a proven track record in noise and dust abatement. The company has said 12 full-time permanent jobs will be created by the $40-million project.
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