If all goes well the provincial government will be moving 180,000 cubic metres of agricultural soil from the former Surrey Pit to the defunct Brown Pit in Langley this summer.
At a public meeting hosted by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure June 8 at Harmsworth Hall the proposal appeared to be well received by residents whose properties neighbour onto the Brown Pit.
A previous proposal by the ministry to reactivate Brown Pit for gravel supply for the Gateway Project on Hwy. 1 and Port Mann Bridge had caused considerable controversy two years ago. The pit had supplied gravel for the construction of the original Hwy. 1 in the early ’60s but hadn’t been used since 1965.
Public concerns over possible degradation of the Hopington Aquifer below Brown Pit led to government studies, which concluded that further gravel extraction could lead to further damage to the endangered aquifer. Since neighbouring property owners had no other water resource, the province backed away from using Brown Pit and instead used the Strong Pit in south-west Abbotsford for the Gateway Project.
Ken Lukawesky, the regional gravel resource manager for the ministry, told the public meeting that since the pit will never be re-opened the province intends to reclaim the land and sell it on the market as surplus property.
The two triangular-shaped lots, located along Hwy. 1 near 240 Street, total about 14.7 hectares.
Lukawesky said there is an opportunity to remove sandy loam agricultural quality soil from the Surrey Pit, which is being redeveloped as a commercial-industrial complex. The soil had previously been used for the province’s forestry nursery but is now piled up at the Surrey Pit, awaiting removal.
About six hectares of Brown Pit had been excavated to a depth of about six metres, and Lukawesky said there was enough soil to restore most of the pit to its original elevation. Top soil which had previously been brought to Brown Pit would then be applied to the top of the new soil.
Lukawesky said the work would take two to three months to complete, and that testing and monitoring would be conducted throughout the process to ensure there were no contaminants trucked in.
“We have a responsibility to the Mines Act and the Agricultural Land Commission, which requires us to reclaim the properties as farmland,” said Lukawesky.
He noted that other positive benefits would be “partial restoration of aquifer performance and improvement of noise abatement from Hwy. 1,” as the property would then rise above the freeway and act as a sound barrier.
The only sticking point expressed by the residents at the meeting was the issue of the 20,000 truckloads on the narrow rural road.
Lukawesky said rough estimates of about a truck per minute, five days a week, would be required to finish the work by October.
The only existing access is via 66 Avenue from 232 Street, and several residents said they would rather see the ministry construct temporary access to the pit from the freeway.
Lukawesky said that was a possibility, but that ministry technical experts would have to determine whether it was feasible.
Township Mayor Rick Green, however, told Lukawesky that the Township would be pushing the ministry to construct a temporary access from Hwy. 1.