Thursday, September 22, 2011

Keppel Quarry Update

GABP has filed an appeal against the Niagara Escarpment Commission’s decision in the conditional approval of a Niagara Escarpment Development Permit for the Sutherland Construction Ltd. Keppel Quarry expansion. In addition, the NEC  has referred the application to the Environmental Review Tribunal for a hearing.

GABP commented on the application in March of 2009 when the application was received by the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Subsequently, Sutherland went to the Minister of Natural Resources and requested a license. The Minister handed the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board. In July 2009 GABP attended the OMB pre-hearing and were granted party status, as were Grey County and the NEC. After numerous pre-hearings, it was agreed that the OMB process would stop while the NEC completed its review of the application. In October 2010, the NEC retained Dr. Ken Howard to provide a peer review of the hydrogeological studies, which was submitted on March 2011.

In the interim, the application has changed. The size of the excavation is now smaller and further from the wetlands, but there is a new extraction piece adjacent to the existing site.

Dr. Howard’s report was critical of the work that had not been done. He agreed with Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Natural Resources that a groundwater model needed to be done, to show how the water moves through the site. The model would help predict how excavation below the water table would impact the adjacent wetlands. The model would also help determine how much water would result from dewatering, how much water would NOT go to wetlands and therefore may be required to keep them “wet”, how much water would be going to Park Head Creek via the karstic feature. Sutherland’s team did some of the work that Howard recommended, but they did not prepare a model. 

On August 10, 2011, the NEC staff circulated their report, addendum report and notice of an August 18, 2011 meeting in Georgetown. Peggy Hutchison attended and heard the comments of Dennis Shouldice, and site neighbour, Garnet Cramp, among other members of the public. The NEC accepted the report, with some changes to the buffer area and to the hours of operation, by a vote of 8 – 5. Dennis Shouldice has researched and prepared a huge file that was submitted to the Commission but not circulated. (Learn more about the objections to the Keppel Quarry.)

THE NEC decision has 35 conditions. However, there are still some outstanding issues which are not in the decision and there are some loose ends in the conditions of the decision. GABP in consultation with Dennis Shouldice have identified the following issues which form the basis of GABP's appeal.
Outstanding issues not in the Decision:

  1. There has been no investigation of why the wetland has shrunk in the last five years. Dennis Shouldice had sent information and photos to the NEC, but only recently sent them to MNR and MOE. He thought the NEC would have it investigated. An inventory of wildlife in the wetland was made some years ago. Has anything changed?
  2. MOE (Bill Armstrong) still does not know the quantity of water that would be heading for Site 13 and down hill to Park Hill Creek. The quantity of water will also determine whether the quality will be able to be restored.
  3. As an adjunct to (2), there is the question of water quality and quantity impact on fish habitat downstream. So far the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has not been involved. The First Nations share this concern but they have stepped aside. There should be a “sign off” from DFO if there will be no impact on fish habitat.
  4. How will the acknowledged negative impact on Cramp well be addressed?

Outstanding issues arising from the Decision and its conditions:
  1. Conditions 5 and 31 speak to no changes being made to the license or site plans without NEC approval. On the Chatsworth quarry, all site plan notes were included in the zoning by-law so no changes could be made without going back to the municipality and the public. This is a similar process. However, it does not stipulate “who” will be notified and how they will be notified. Condition 26 states a Community Liaison Committee will be established, but does not specify who will be on it.
  2. Condition 26 also states that a final Adaptive Management Plan will be prepared. AMPs, are the new MNR tool for measuring, monitoring, mitigating and generally trying to juggle the environment as excavation goes into the unknown below the water table. The OMB, at the MAQ hearing, has stated the AMP must be on the site plans, and the MNR agrees. The Development Permit is the NEC’s equivalent of a zoning by-law. There are still questions around the reporting mechanism and the liaison committee.
  3. Condition 27 states that if an annual report indicates there are negative impacts on the wetland or ANSI, it should indicate how and when impacts will be corrected, but nothing about stopping operations. Dennis Shouldice has the record of Keppel Quarry infractions with MOE over the past several years where ammonia nitrate levels have far exceeded the minimum. Warnings to the operator have had negligible results. There should be some sort of “down tools” or time line for remediation, not just “when will impacts be remediated?” They could say “never”!
NEC addresses not only the NE development permit but also the NEP Amendment application. 

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