A study into the effects of a quarry expansion on Saanich Inlet will happen, but right now no one knows when.
The province has confirmed the cumulative-effects analysis, promised by Environment Minister George Heyman, will take place but it will take time to establish a framework and scope for the study.
In a statement from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, the province made it clear this will not happen quickly.
“British Columbia is committed to doing this work with First Nations whose territories are included within the scope of this cumulative effects assessment,” the statement said.
“Through this work with First Nations, we will collaboratively develop the framework and scope of the assessment.”
While the scope of the study is to be focused on what the ministries call “marine values” as applied to the Saanich Inlet area, it also means that before the first measurement is taken the Water, Lands and Resource Stewardship Ministry will work with the Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Ministry to understand the First Nations’ interests on what needs to be assessed and what approach to take.
“The province recognizes that a thorough, trust-based approach to cumulative effects analysis takes time and resources,” the statement said.
That won’t sit well with the groups that have been pushing back against the Malahat First Nation’s plans to expand the aggregate quarry site at Bamberton.
The Saanich Inlet Protection Society, which had pressed the province to do an environmental review of the quarry expansion near Mill Bay, has called for details of what the cumulative effects analysis will look like and when it will start.
The group has even suggested it would do its own study as it no longer trusted the government to do it.
In his decision refusing to grant an environmental review of the project, Heyman said the quarry expansion would instead undergo an enhanced review through the Mines Act permitting process.
The enhanced permit process was to include ongoing consultation with the Environmental Assessment Office, technical review by geotechnical, geoscience and reclamation specialists, and further engagement with First Nations and the public.
Heyman said concerns raised about the risks to the sensitive and unique Saanich Inlet ecosystem would be addressed by the enhanced permit amendment review process, coupled with a cumulative-effects analysis to be developed in consultation with First Nations and the assessment office.
The society believes the impact of the plans to increase the size and production of its existing quarry, extend its dock on Saanich Inlet and expand a soil-deposit site, will harm and contaminate the inlet.
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