A rock quarry. (Markus Distelrath/Pixabay)

Central Okanagan residents, irrigation district oppose proposed rock quarry off Hwy 33

Residents and Black Mountain Irrigation District said there are environmental, water risks

A proposed rock quarry in Joe Rich has residents and the Black Mountain Irrigation District (BMID) worried.

Westridge Rock Ventures Ltd. has proposed a sand, gravel and aggregate rock quarry be established just off Highway 33. The company listed some of the benefits of the location as being closer to the market, with traffic being reduced as Joe Rich is rural, which means less wear and tear on roads and reduced greenhouse gases and fuel consumption.

Westridge also stated the proposed location is not in an environmentally sensitive area.

Despite that, the community is still concerned and some are hoping the quarry proposal doesn’t get approved.

Area resident Shawn Blennerhassett said the site for the new quarry borders his property, and he and his wife are concerned that an industrial mining operation could be too close to them and their neighbours.

“I’d never even heard of the application previously. A neighbour just informed us out of the blue that this was happening,” he said.

“This is a small community of residential and rural acreages, and it’s not really the proper place for a commercial quarry operation.”

Blennerhassett cited some of the reasons that he and other residents are concerned about, including traffic, noise, potential results from crushing and blasting rocks, the effect a quarry could have on local wells, as well as disturbing the local wildlife.

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BMID administrator Bob Hrasko said although the proposed quarry is not in an environmentally sensitive area, it is just above a 130-metre silt bluff slope that could easily become unstable.

“We supply water to approximately 5,000 acres of agricultural land in the east benches of Kelowna and we also supply domestic water to about 28,000 people,” Hrasko said.

“The issues we have with the quarry being located there is the vibrations from blasting and all the activities that will occur above the highway… the silt bluff slope has historically seen slumping and instability.

“The worry is that the silt bluffs could fail and block Mission Creek entirely.”

The Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) is one of the referral agencies for Westridge’s application, but the final decision rests with B.C.’s Ministry of Mines. This means that even if the RDCO supports the application — or doesn’t — the province will have the final say.

Now, residents are holding information sessions and reaching out to the province and Westridge to relocate the site.

“I have nothing against mining and whether gravel is needed desperately or not, it doesn’t matter. But there are many, many other places, better places, to have this quarry,” Blennerhassett said.

Hrasko echoed his sentiments.

“Anything that will contribute to a slope failure and damage Mission Creek is a bad idea. Westridge is a reputable company and we buy gravel from them for our operations, but we would like this site to not be approved,” he said.

“We would like to see a pit but perhaps somewhere else.”

Black Press Media has reached out to the Ministry of Mines for comment.

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