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Coalition ready to take stand at quarry hearings

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In Clearview
Jan 25th, 2011
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By MORGAN IAN ADAMS Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin January 12 2011
DUNTROON — The opposition to an expansion of a quarry operation west of the village is about to go on the offensive, with a list of political and industry heavy hitters ready to take the stand to speak against the application.

The next round of the Consolidated Hearings Board looking at Walker Aggregates application to expand its quarry operation is scheduled to get underway next week, with the Clearview Community Coalition — a group of area residents fighting the expansion — ready to take centre stage in February with a list of witnesses that include former federal cabinet minister Barbara McDougall, former Noranda CEO Adam Zimmerman, and former Ontario cabinet ministers Ruth Grier and Bill Saunderson, along with the coalition’s own expert witnesses.
The coalition has also summoned Ontario Environment Commissioner Gordon Miller to appear before the board.
“It’s exciting to be able to finally put our case forward,” said Grier, a member of the coalition who was Minister of the Environment and Minister of Health under NDP Premier Bob Rae, and an MPP from 1985 until 1995.
The hearings were scheduled to resume Monday with a continuation of the testimony and cross-examination of Linda Laflamme, the landscape architect for the Niagara Escarpment Commission.
According to Grier, the coalition has also attracted a broad cross-section of area residents; a news release touted the involvement of Grier and Mike Harris-era minister, Bill Saunderson.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Ruth,” said Saunderson, who was Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism from 1995 until 1997, in an interview with the Enterprise-Bulletin. “We’ve had a lot of fun, and we’re all in this together.”
Saunderson and his wife, Meredith, purchased an old schoolhouse in the area in 1965 as a weekend retreat for the family, and said the coalition is a good mix of weekenders and long-time residents.
He noted part of his role on the coalition is to “raise the money”; residents have come up with about $300,000 to mount their challenge to the application, including hiring lawyers, and experts in planning and environmental matters.
Both Saunderson and Grier coined this fight as a “David versus Goliath,” noting their challenge of Walker’s application has also pitted them up against Clearview Township, Simcoe County, and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Grier, who has a residence in Glen Huron, says the province has to consider other options for aggregate, as “we waste an extreme amount of gravel here in Ontario.
 “When you think of any other industry, where reducing, recycling and reusing is top of mind, yet it doesn’t happen in the gravel industry,” said Grier, noting while Ontario goes through about 14 tonnes of gravel per capita, England only goes through four tonnes, and Germany uses six tonnes. “(The industry) hasn’t made use of secondary materials, and there’s no incentive or environmental legislation encouraging them to do so.
“What’s at stake is whether the Ontario government sees the Niagara Escarpment as a one-of-a-kind, protected world biosphere or is it just one big gravel resource to quarry as we please?”
Grier said that issue is one that will likely be addressed by Miller during his testimony.
The coalition also cites its concerns with locating a gravel pit on the Niagara Escarpment, and its potential affects on the water table, wildlife, and vegetation; the site has a stand of butternut trees, as well as a colony of rare Hart’s Tongue Fern. The general area of the pit also acts as the headwaters of the Mad and Pretty rivers, and Batteau Creek
“My concern is that what we’re going to have happen is a very large gravel pit, and it’s going to impact on what’s special about the Niagara Escarpment,” said Saunderson, noting the area headwaters are “essential to farmers, the natural environment, and tourism.”
Saunderson is also concerned about the transfer of County Road 91 to Walker’s; the county, township, and Walker’s arrived at a deal for the road– which would include improvements to other area roads — behind closed doors.
“As a former legislator, how do you do something like that in camera, when it’s a matter that should have been brought forward for public debate?” he asked.
“I think through our cross-examinations we’ve been able to show it’s an incredibly complex case and an incredibly complex site,” said Grier. “If a site such as Duntroon, which is so environmentally- sensitive, can be approved for a gravel pit, then what’s next?
“From an economic point-of-view, tourism and recreation depends on the escarpment ; the escarpment is the attraction, and the folly of it becoming the gravel centre of Ontario would be extreme.”

 

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