Sand and Gravel Operations Putting Natural Ecosytems at Risk
BY THE RED DEER RIVER NATURALISTS SOCIETY
The Red Deer River Naturalists Society are concerned that sand and gravel operations in Alberta are increasingly putting Alberta’s natural ecosystems at risk as has been outlined in recent reports of the Auditor General and the Red Deer Watershed Alliance.
Alberta’s Auditor General determined in November 2019 that:
- Un-reclaimed sand and gravel pits expose Albertans to unnecessary risks such as destroyed ecosystems and habitats, water pollution and riverbank erosion.
- Alberta Environment and Parks does not collect enough security from pit operators to compel them to reclaim the land [or] to cover the cost of reclaiming pits
The November 2021 Report of the Auditor General found little or no resolution of these concerns, and recommended:
- the Department of Environment and Parks improve the effectiveness and efficiency of reclamation monitoring and enforce reclamation requirements,
- the Department of Environment and Parks collect sufficient security to compel operators to reclaim the land and to cover reclamation costs if operators fail to do so, and
- the Department of Transportation improve its processes to assess, estimate and account for environmental liabilities related to its sand and gravel pits and highway maintenance yards.
The Red Deer River Watershed Alliance has cited a number of scientific studies that indicate aggregate extraction within the floodplain poses risks to shallow groundwater, species habitat and river morphology. Since there has been little progress rectifying deficiencies identified by the Auditor General in both 2019 and 2021, the Red Deer River Naturalists feels it is prudent that we support recommendation #4 from the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance Policy Statement - Sand and Gravel Program Review issued in April 2017:
“Suspend new aggregate extraction approvals within alluvial (shallow) aquifers in the 1:100-year floodplain zone until further research analyzing risks to water security and aquatic ecosystem health is completed.”
The Red Deer River Naturalists Society respectfully requests that the Government of Alberta resolve deficiencies outlined by the Auditor General and suspend new aggregate extraction approvals within alluvial (shallow) aquifers in the 1:100-year floodplain zone until further research analyzing risks to water security and aquatic ecosystem health is completed.