Gravel Mines Pose Risks to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park and Bighill Creek
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 is for the Mountain Ash Limited Partnership, Summit mine. When this and the others are fully developed they would create a basin over one square mile in size. The mines would be located on the aquifer which supplies the spring water to the Big Hill Springs Provincial Park and almost half of the flow in the Bighill Creek. This unusual aquifer is “provincially significant” due to thousands of years of depositing a rare calcium formation in the creek bed, known as tufa.
Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is a unique, much loved and much used ecological and recreational asset for our region. Although only about 70 acres in size, it receives almost 175,000 visitors each year and is currently under renovation due to over use. 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 layer which protects the aquifer from contamination. The excavation would reach to within a meter above the estimated water table. The level of water in the aquifer fluctuates over area and over time. If it is breached, water will have to be pumped out of the mine, thus robbing the Park and the Creek of sustaining flow.
Mining operations and the basins left behind risk funneling contaminants into the source springs. (Proposed observation wells in the mines would only identify pollution in the aquifer after it has occurred.) Significant rainfall events in the basins would expose the Park and Creek to greater fluctuations in water flow which could harm the health of the downstream ecosystems.
Bighill Creek Preservation Society is a group of local residents acting to preserve the unique natural and historical attributes for the Bighill Creek drainage. We are very concerned that gravel mines approved or under application adjacent the Park will harm these valuable assets. Significant gravel resources are located elsewhere in the vicinity which would not place the sustaining aquifer, the Provincial Park and the Creek at risk. We encourage people who share our concerns to voice their opposition to Rocky View Council via their planner, Jessica Anderson (JAnderson@rockyview.ca). Reference Bylaw C-8051-2020 (Application PL 2020031).
BCPS Letter of Request to DFO May 2021