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New voices on gravel committee not likely, says Hawes

Fraser Valley residents opposed to a gravel removal plan are asking for a seat at the committee that developed the Aggregate Pilot Project after five years of closed-door negotiations.

But Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes, who holds the trump card as B.C.’s minister of state for mining, said Tuesday he has “no intention” of seeing new members added to the committee.

“We’ve got a number of elected representatives who have a mandate to speak for the people, and that’s who’s sitting (at the committee),” Hawes said.

But Yale area director Dennis Adamson said the three Fraser Valley Regional District directors at the APP committee are duty-bound to represent gravel producers in their areas, so can’t solely champion the public’s interest.

He said if the APP is “truly a living document” and open to change as Hawes and others claim, then there should be room at the committee for public input.

The committee is currently comprised of B.C. government officials, FVRD directors and members of the gravel industry.

The APP, a tripartite agreement reached by the committee in 2009, must be approved by each municipality in the FVRD region, which requires public hearings to make zoning changes and amendments to official community plans.

But the newly-formed Fraser Valley Regional District Citizens’ Association claims the APP is “flawed” and is asking FVRD directors to support its bid for a seat at the committee.

“It’s a community-driven response to what we consider the flawed (APP),” FCA spokeswoman Cynthia Berge said Monday.

She said the association is an “umbrella” group for other citizens’ organizations in the region, making it comparable to the members of the gravel producers’ association already sitting at the committee table.

The association hopes to bring an alternate plan called the Aggregate Supply Project to the committee, she said.

The ASP calls for a province-wide moratorium on new gravel pits, and cancellation of permits approved in the last two years in areas where there was public opposition.

But Hawes called the ASP “absolutely, completely unworkable” and cancellation of permits in “conflict areas” would cause a flurry of lawsuits.

“Can you imagine what the courts would say if the B.C. government tried to trammel on the rights of corporations?” he asked. “We’re probably talking tens of millions of dollars in compensation.”

He also said the cost of home-building would “skyrocket” if gravel producers were forced to locate in more remote areas of the province.

Paul Allard, B.C. Aggregate Producers’ Association executive director, did not return phone calls for comment on the FCA’s proposal.

The FCA is holding a public meeting Saturday at the Harrison Mills Community Hall located at 1995 School Road. The meeting starts at 1 p.m.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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