County gravel pit requires wetland solution

County of Wetaskiwin hears report about wetlands at Hilgartner pit

County of Wetaskiwin councilors heard a complicated report about a gravel pit that had disturbed wetlands located on it. The report was made during the Public Works council meeting Oct. 22.

Director of Public Works Neil Powell gave councilors a report on the Hilgartner gravel pit, where investigation later revealed a wetland had been affected by the mining operations.

“The County has been operating the Hilgartner Pit since 1995,” Powell’s memo stated.

“Prior to 2001, excavation and mining activities included a portion of two wetlands. Due to the mining operations, the wetlands were dewatered. Prior to 2001, the Wetland Policy was in early development and not enforced as it is today.

“A standard practice 15-20 years ago included the dewatering of areas for mining of gravels. The original Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) approval (Registration No. SG-42-89) was granted for the Hilgartner Pit in 1995. This approval expired on February 3, 2005 and was replaced in 2007 by Registration No. 15912-02-00.

“Following this, the County conducted mining and crushing operations throughout the years with the last crush occurring in 2016.

“In March 2017, the County received a letter from Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) indicating an unauthorized activity at the Hilgartner Gravel Pit.

“AEP conducted a desktop review and noted that operations were beyond the registered details of the registered Activity Plan. As this was a contravention to legislation put forth in the Code of Practice for Pits, the County was ordered to “…immediately cease operation in the unapproved area.”

“The letter also instructed the County to update their Activities Plan to reflect the unapproved areas of disturbance and detail future mining and reclamation activities.”

Powell noted the county recruited help on this project. “In June 2017, and on behalf of the County, WSP provided a 7-day Report for Water Act Contravention to AEP,” stated Powell in his report.

“AEP required a desktop wetland assessment which was done March 2018. Subsequent to the desktop assessment, AEP required a Wetland Assessment and Impact Report (WAIR) be completed. WSP conducted a field survey of the area on July 11, 2018 and completed the WAIR in September 2018.

“The WAIR documented that the wetland in SW 29 had undergone disturbance and therefore was in contravention of the Wetland Policy. For 2020 and beyond, the County proposes to mine through this dewatered wetland and is required to compensate Ducks Unlimited Canada for the loss of wetland area.

“Based on information in the WAIR, the in-lieu compensation for both wetlands (SW 29 and NW 29) has been established as follows: Wetland Area removed: 5.65 ha, Classification of Wetland: Class D, Compensation Rate for Class D: $18,500 per hectare, Total Compensation for Wetland Replacement: $109,751.25.”

The pit in question contains a substantial amount of material. “The remaining volume of pitrun located beneath the wetlands is estimated at 140,000 m3,” stated Powell.

“This has an estimated value of $5 per cubic metre, or $700,000 of insitu pitrun value. A revised COP amendment for the current and future development of the Hilgartner/Hundeby Pit located in SW 29-045-23 W4M (SW 29) and NW 29-045-23 W4M (NW 29) has been prepared by WSP.

“With the revised COP, it is proposed that the current Hilgartner pit boundary be extended to incorporate the land directly to the north in NW 29 (currently called the Hundeby Pit). It is proposed that the amended Hilgartner pit plan be registered as the Hilgartner/Hundeby Pit.

“The County estimates there are approximately 600,000 tonnes of gravel left to be mined in the Hilgartner/Hundeby Pit. With an annual removal rate of approximately 30,000 tonnes, the life expectancy of the proposed pit is 20 years.”

During discussion councilor Lyle Seely stated it would be nice if Ducks Unlimited was giving back to the County of Wetaskiwin.

Powell noted the county did err, and it wasn’t tied to Ducks Unlimited. Powell said the handling of the pit has been much improved. “It’s different now,” said Powell. “Much better.”

Councilors unanimously accepted the report for information.

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