The environmental assessment for a proposed aggregate mine at McNab Creek on Howe Sound is moving on to the public comment stage.
Burnco Rock Products has announced that after seven years of scientific studies and data collection, it has now filed its application for an environmental certificate with the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).
The application outlines the project’s potential environmental, heritage, health, social, and economic impacts, and triggers a 45-day public comment period (Aug. 15 to Sept. 28).
The company also needs zoning approval from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) for a processing facility at the site. In February, the SCRD’s planning department reactivated the company’s application to rezone about 55 hectares (134 acres) of land from Rural Two (RU2) to Industrial 5 (I5).
Burnco’s interest in McNab Creek was one of the catalysts for the formation of the Future of Howe Sound Society (FHSS), and executive director Ruth Simons said the group still has concerns about the project.
One of the biggest is noise.
“There has been an economy generated around recreation use, and the reason it’s [appealing for] recreation use is that it’s peaceful, and there’s value in maintaining those quiet places,” she said.
Simons also said FHSS is not reassured by what the company’s application says about noise. “They’re saying [the facility] will meet certain health standards for noise. They’re not saying it won’t be noisy.”
Noise is also top-of-mind for SCRD Area F director Ian Winn. He raised the issue when the Burnco application was in front of the SCRD on May 26. He said the McNab Creek area is a natural amphitheatre that could greatly amplify the sound of mining and processing.
The SCRD board is asking that “appropriate noise monitoring and enforcement measures by the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) be included as conditions of any certificate.”
Simons said as well as encouraging people to take advantage of the public comment period, the FHSS will continue trying to convince the SCRD to deny Burnco’s request for rezoning.
“Nothing’s happened in the SCRD to address the public’s strong, strong sentiments about this part of Howe Sound, which is kind of disappointing,” she said. “If they’re planning on allowing a rezoning to industrial, then that would be flying in the face of what they’ve been hearing for years, and years, and years – which is no more reindustrialization of Howe Sound.”
In a release announcing the application, Burnco CEO Mike Powell said the company has refined its plan based on feedback from governments, First Nations and the public. “Burnco is committed to avoiding, reducing or otherwise mitigating potential effects of our proposal through design features and best management practices. The conclusion of our exhaustive studies is that, with the application of design considerations and identified mitigation, no significant adverse effects will result.”
Both Winn and Simons told Coast Reporter they’d been hoping for more time for public input (45 days is already longer than the usual 30), and more information sessions.
Winn said he’s concerned residents of the islands won’t be able to make the Gibsons session on Sept. 13 (the others are Sept. 12 in Squamish and Sept. 14 in West Vancouver). “Given that the proposal calls for increased tug and barge traffic, and many possible environmental impacts in Howe Sound, the islands property owners need to have an equal opportunity to attend an information session,” he said.
More information is on the CEAA website at tinyurl.com/zjden6e, and at the Gibsons and Sechelt public libraries.