Opponents of a gravel pit proposed for West Montrose this week fired the latest salvo in the ongoing battle, deeming inadequate a hydrogeological study provided by the applicant, and expressing concerns about the future of wetlands near the covered bridge.
The Bridge Keepers organization says the subwatershed study provided by Capital Paving does not cover in any detail the information required to assess the impact of the proposed gravel pit.
In a presentation to Woolwich council Tuesday night, Dr. Kim Cuddington, a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo, said the report fails to provide any facts to back up Capital Paving’s assertion the pit would have a minimal impact on the environment.
The hydrogeological study tackles one of the most contentious issues, as the company plans to excavate below the water table on portions of the 115-acre site. That gives rise to worries about the impact on local wells, the nearby Grand River and the future prospects of farming the land after any aggregate operation has closed and the land remediated.
If the pit goes ahead, it could have a detrimental impact on the naturalized areas near the bridge, Cuddington suggested.
“There are woodlands and wetlands in the immediate vicinity of the bridge, immediately adjacent to [the site of the proposed pit]. Because it is immediately adjacent to this area, we want to make sure the wetlands and woodlands are protected, not only because they provide a beautiful background for the bridge, but because the GRCA has suggested [they] are provincially significant,” she said.
Information provided by the company fails to address pressing concerns, Cuddington added. There are no figures, for instance, on how much water it will use to wash the aggregate, nor does the company say where that water will come from.
As well, Capital Paving has not identified the water budget currently required by the wetlands, so it cannot say how much of an impact diverting water will have. Nor has it addressed the permanent changes in topography that will exist, even after rehabilitation.
“We’re going to change the topography: we’re going to dig out a pit. This will disrupt surface water flow to the wetlands. If the pit is deep enough, we can also disrupt groundwater flow.”
Initial studies show there is a potential for the diversion of water to starve the wetlands and woodlands to the north and west of the site, she noted.
Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, said he has issues with the study supplied by the applicant, adding the information provided by Cuddington will be helpful in assessing the company’s data.
“Staff have some fundamental concerns with the scoped subwatershed study.”
Coun. Mark Bauman noted this is why the township maintains the need for peer reviews as part of the gravel pit application process, a requirement that has been challenged by Capital Paving, which wants Woolwich to move more quickly on its submission.
In a related matter, West Montrose resident Nathan Hallman pressed council for a date when it will discuss a proposal to designate the bridge’s surroundings as a cultural heritage landscape (CHL).
Earlier this year, Prof. Robert Shipley, who heads the Heritage Resources Centre at the University of Waterloo, submitted the findings of a two-year study into the “kissing bridge,” recommending the township explore the CHL designation.
Kennaley said he expects to bring a report to council in December. That document won’t, however, recommend a position on the CHL idea, but rather will set out at process, including public consultations, to consider such a designation.