Residents fight Dorset quarry plans
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | July 27, 2017|
A proposal to build a new quarry and expand an existing sand pit in Algonquin Highlands is proving contentious.
Some residents have expressed concerns but the construction company behind the proposal says complaints have been blown out of proportion.
“This is a small pit and it’s going to run out of material in the next two years,” said Eric Doetsch, co-owner of Bacher Construction Limited, which recently submitted expansion plans to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).
“I just want to be able to supply this area with material. We’ve been up here for 28 years, it’s not like we’re new to the neighbourhood.”
He adds studies to date have cost him more than $40,000.
The McClintock pit is six kilometres northeast of Dorset, next to Harvey Lake. It’s now two hectares. The plan is to expand it to just under 22 hectares (approximately 51 acres), and include a new quarry.
Open pits that produce building materials and stone are known as quarries. The current site does not have a quarry.
Nine Harvey Lake residents found out about the proposal last week when a MNRF public notice arrived in the mail.
It said the proposal is expected to cause “little to no concern” from the public, but encouraged residents to submitt comments.
The letter circulated among Harvey Lake residents, who have rallied and even created a website, nomcclintockquarry.ca .
Nita Acker, president of the Otter Lake Cottagers Association, said the proposal has taken people by surprise.
A permanent resident who’s lived on the south side of the lake for 13 years, she’s noticed more truck traffic and speeding in recent years.
In addition to environmental impacts and noise concerns, Acker says residents are worried about the pit’s future use, as the proposed expansion will allow up to 285,000 tonnes of material to be extracted annually.
But Doetsch says there are simply not enough clients in the area to come close to that 285,000 tonnes figure.
The current site extracts approximately 5-6000 tonnes annually. He doesn’t expect that number to increase much if the proposal goes through.
He says he’s also thinking about the future of his family.
“I want this pit to be used by my son and grandchildren. The restrictions around these proposals are getting so tough, so if I can set this up now, it just helps us in the long run,” he said.
He said if the proposal doesn’t go through, people can expect more trucks since the material will have to come from elsewhere.
Fletcher Bay resident, Guy Bonney, supports the proposal.
“You need materials to build and expand the community,” he said, adding he’s never had a complaint against the current pit or the traffic.
“I take my hat off to people like Eric who are employing people in rural areas, it’s not easy.”
Bacher employs 24 people in the summer and 12 during the off-season.
Algonquin Highlands council discussed the proposal July 20.
Because the site is on Crown land, (provincially-owned) council noted it’s limited in what it can do to ensure adherance to township zoning bylaws.
“The best thing we could do is come up with a list of things we want to see … despite the fact that they can still say no,” said mayor Carol Moffatt, acknowledging gravel and similar material is important to the growth of the community.
Council will ask for compliance with zoning bylaws, specific road restrictions and for Bacher to bring the road up to a higher standard to prolong its life.
April McCrum, a biologist from FRi Ecological Services, submitted an environmental report for the proposal in November 2016. It concluded a permit could be issued if the report’s mitigation measures were implemented.
A noise impact analysis echoed it, saying “sound exposure levels from the worst case daily operations of the proposed McClintock Quarry/Pit are predicted to be in compliance with the MOE noise guideline limits.”
A public meeting, led by Doetsch, will be held at the Dorset recreation centre July 29 at 9 a.m.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.