Urgent need of your help.

Subject: GRAVEL MINES COULD RUIN BIG HILL SPRINGS AND PARK – HEARING INPUT NEEDED BY FEB 17.

Dear Members of Bighill Creek Preservation Society:

We Need Your Help!!! 

Open pit gravel mines planned for the area immediately northwest of Big Hill Springs Provincial Park risk the health of the Park and Bighill Creek. The most recent application to Rocky View County is for the Mountain Ash Limited Partnership, Summit mine. If these and the other lands in the immediate vicinity owned by gravel companies are allowed to be developed, they would create a basin over two square miles in size. The open pit mines would be located in the sensitive headwaters of the aquifer which feeds the springs in the Big Hill Springs Provincial Park and almost half of the flow in Bighill Creek. This aquifer is provincially significant due to the rarity of it having spent thousands of years depositing an unusual calcium formation in the creek bed, known as tufa. The County has opposed any assessment of the cumulative effects of these mines.

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is a unique, much loved and heavily used ecological and recreational asset for our region. Although only about 70 acres in size, it receives almost one quarter million visitors each year. Asa result, it is currently under renovation to upgrade its facilities. Bighill Creek, and the valley it inhabits provide diverse habitat for a broad array of species ranging from birds and fish to moose, bears and cougars. It provides opportunities for recreational and natural respite for the region and the Town of Cochrane.

Gravel mines would remove the protective layers which guard the aquifer from contamination.   Planned gravel excavation would remove these protective layers, leaving only one meter of gravel to filter out contaminants like spilled fuel, herbicides and contaminants released by the mining process.  The water level in the aquifer fluctuates over time, raising concerns about the adequacy of the narrow remaining filter and the potential need pump water from the pit directly into the Creek.

Mining operations and the craters left behind would force the recharge of the springs through a dramatically reduced protective filter, funneling groundwater contaminants into the springs and eventually Bighill Creek. This could cause serious ramifications for the fish and aquatic species supporting them. Proposed observation wells in the mines would only identify harmful contaminants in the aquifer after they have already entered the groundwater and traveled towards the Park, making recovery and any possible mitigation far more difficult. 

Bighill Springs Preservation Society is extremely concerned that open pit gravel mines adjacent the Park will do irreparable harm to these valuable assets. Significant gravel deposits exist in innumerable other locations in the region which could supply gravel without imposing significant risks to the ongoing viability of Big Hill Springs aquifer, the Park and the Creek. 

We encourage people who share our concerns to voice their opposition to the Mountain Ash proposal and to open pit gravel mining in this area to the Rocky View County Council for the upcoming public hearing.  Emails should be sent to legislativeservices@rockyview.ca and should reference Bylaw C-8051-2020 (Mountain Ash Application PL 20200031) in the subject line. The deadline for written comments is Wednesday, February 17th. More information can be viewed on our website (bighillcreek.ca).

Thank you for acting now!