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Protection society crushed by quarry decision

The Saanich Inlet Protection Society said Environment Minister George Heyman’s decision not to offer an environmental review ignores concerns for the future of the Saanich Inlet
The Bamberton foreshore and quarry site as seen from Willis Point. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The Saanich Inlet Protection Society, which had pressed the province to do an environmental review of the expansion of an aggregate quarry and foreshore lease on the Bamberton lands near Mill Bay, says it’s extremely disappointed that no such review will happen.

In a statement, the society said Environment Minister George Heyman’s decision not to offer an environmental review ignores concerns for the future of Saanich Inlet and local governments’ desire to conserve the environment, while disregarding the treaty rights of Saanich Peninsula First Nations.

“In making this decision, Minister Heyman has ignored the only comprehensive Saanich Inlet environmental study done in the last 30 years,” the society said. “This study concluded: ‘major industrial development is incompatible with the inlet’s special oceanographic characteristics.’ ”

Instead of an environmental review, Heyman said the quarry expansion planned by the Malahat First Nation will undergo an enhanced review through the Mines Act permitting process.

The enhanced permit process will 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 will be addressed by the enhanced permit amendment review process, coupled with the cumulative-effects analysis to be developed in consultation with First Nations and the assessment office.

The Saanich Inlet Protection Society said the “cumulative-effects analysis” is no substitute for an environmental assessment.

“The analysis will not be completed in time to inform the permits that will shortly be issued for the quarry and the foreshore,” the society said. “At best it promises to be an interesting academic study but at the moment, the output is vague.”

The society did say there is hope that this is a step toward an environmental assessment of Saanich Inlet after a century of industrial activity. And it notes Heyman’s recommendation for enhanced permit procedures seems to indicate he understands there are deficiencies in the existing permit process.

The minister recommended that if the Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Ministry does approve the quarry expansion, annual reporting on environmental monitoring should be required, with an environmental review committee to ensure any mitigation measures imposed are effective.

The society, which intends to take part in the process, said it is looking forward to greater transparency, public reporting of environmental monitoring and creation of a monitoring committee.

The society asked for the environmental review of expansion plans for the Bamberton aggregate quarry, citing the potential impact of the First Nation’s plans to increase the size and production of the existing quarry, extend its dock on Saanich Inlet and expand a soil-deposit site.

The society said it has scientific information that suggests a danger of contamination if the quarry is expanded.

The province’s Environmental Assessment Office already determined that the renewal of a foreshore lease for a dock and a permit for a clean-fill site on the property were not eligible for an environmental assessment because both have been in operation for years.

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