Resource Extraction Regulatory Review (RERR)

Changes for new resource extraction operations will take effect on Sept. 30, 2023. These changes balance the economic benefits of sand and gravel (aggregate) extraction with the need to protect the environment and residents’ quality of life.

Resource extraction is important. It creates jobs, provides the resources needed to build things like roads, and help pay for community services with a levy. But some residents expressed concerns with loud noise, hours of operation, air and water quality, traffic, and impacts to livestock. The changes considered and reflected this input.

Sturgeon County Council approved Bylaw 1607/22, which introduces changes to resource extraction in Sturgeon County. This bylaw takes effect on Sept. 30, 2023.

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An excavator working at a sand and gravel extraction pit.

Next steps

The County will implement other recommendations from the Resource Extraction Regulatory Review Final Report – such as reviewing its sand and gravel committee governance, the distribution of operator Community Aggregate Payment (CAP) Levy payments, new municipal communication and enforcement supports, and three new policies: one which guides groundwater management, a second that guides evaluations of direct control (DC) district applications, and a third related to extraction in the vicinity of livestock operations.

The County will continue to share updates on the above actions as they progress.

Resource Extraction Changes

The following changes to resource extraction take effect on Sept. 30, 2023.

  • Operators must consult the community before applying to redistrict land for resource extraction. The County will hold a public hearing for each application so residents can share input with Council before a decision is made.
  • Operators can apply to redistrict land to the resource extraction land use district or to a new resource extraction direct control land use district.
    • In the resource extraction (RE) land use district:
      • Sand, gravel and clay operations must be at least 400 metres from single homes and multi-lot subdivisions.
      • Silica sand operations must be at least 800 metres from single homes and multi-lot subdivisions.
      • Operators need to have plans for traffic management, hauling and water/groundwater management.
    • In the new resource extraction direct control (RE DC) land use district, on a site-specific basis:
      • Operators can apply for reduced setback distances (compared to the resource extraction (RE) land use district) if supported by an economic, environmental and social assessment. If approved by Council, additional measures could apply and would suit the land’s unique characteristics, such as topography, shelter belts, roadways and more.
      • Measures related to traffic management, noise, hours of operation, air quality, hauling, water/groundwater management and more can be applied to reduce the operation’s impact on the environment and nearby landowners and properties.
  • Approved resource extraction development permits are valid for five-years, following which the operator would need to apply for another five-year permit in order to continue operations. The County will monitor operations and enforce bylaws for all operations.
  • Resource extraction operators need to regularly share information with the public through community meetings and information sharing on a County-managed platform.

Note: existing operations in the resource extraction land use district will not be impacted by these changes, unless they need permit renewal. At that time, these changes would apply.

Related Links

Common Questions
How will the County keep us informed about resource extraction rules?

The County will continue updating the county website with information about resource extraction.  Join our email list to get updates about resource extraction delivered to your inbox.

How will the County keep us informed about resource extraction operations?

Administration will prepare a staged implementation plan for other recommendations in the RERR Final Report. An outcome of this review will be a communication platform to communicate about resource extraction operations.

What location does this review focus on?

The Resource Extraction Regulatory Review does not focus on a specific project or extraction area. It is a review of the rules applied to resource extraction operations throughout the County. Starting Sept. 30, 2023, the new rules apply to new sand and gravel extraction sites, or applications to change/expand operations or renew a permit.

Who decides where resource extraction operations are located?

Any landowner can apply to redistrict/rezone their land. After considering public input, Council decides if the application is supported or not. If approved, Council would pass a bylaw to amend the Land Use Bylaw to reflect the redistricting/rezoning of the land.

Each land use district allows for certain uses, such as resource extraction; however, the landowner must still apply for a development permit. The development permit details the specific conditions for the intended use and is issued by a development officer with the County.

Where are the existing resource deposits within Sturgeon County?

This map shows potential resource deposits in Sturgeon County. There may be deposits in other areas not shown on the map, and some areas on the map may only have small deposits. Not all deposits are practical or cost-effective to extract.

How far do operations have to be from homes?

Council approved the following setback distances in the resource extraction land use district:

  • sand, gravel and clay operations must be at least 400 metres (quarter mile) from single homes and multi-lot subdivisions
  • silica sand operations must be at least 800 metres (half mile) from single homes and multi-lot subdivisions

Initially, administration proposed different setback distances in the resource extraction land use district. Operations had to be at least 400 metres from residences and 800 metres from multi-lot subdivisions, which aligned with the recommendation in the Calahoo-Villeneuve Sand and Gravel Extraction Area Structure Plan when it was approved by Council in 2001.

What is the purpose of direct control districts?

Direct control land use districts allow us to create land use/zoning districts with site-specific regulations and performance standards; these are used when other land use districts are inappropriate or inadequate. Direct control districts consider existing/future surrounding developments, the applicant’s interests, and the public interest.

The intent of the resource extraction direct control land use district is that any reduction in setback distance would be met with greater performance standards to reduce the impact an operation has on the environment and adjacent properties and landowners.

Do adjacent landowners need to support a redistricting/rezoning application?

Landowner support of a rezoning/redistricting application is not always needed, but it can impact Council’s decision.

In the resource extraction direct control district, where setback distances can be reduced, landowner negotiations may occur with industry in the pre-application stage; the County/Council is not involved in these negotiations. Sturgeon County encourages landowners to participate in any consultations and public hearings for resource extraction operations near their property.

How long would development permits be valid for?

Approved resource extraction development permits are valid for five years. If an operator wants to renew, they must apply for another permit, which is also valid for five years. This repeats for the lifespan of the operation. New or different conditions can be applied to each permit to align with regulations and set performance standards.

How will the changes to resource extraction be enforced?

The County’s development compliance officer is focussed on making sure development permit conditions are met. This individual investigates development and land use complaints – including those related to resource extraction operations – and takes enforcement action, as needed.

How are impacts of resource extraction on groundwater monitored?

Sturgeon County contracts an environmental consultant to monitor groundwater levels and water quality surrounding resource extraction operations. View the 2021 and 2021 Groundwater Monitoring Report.

The new rules include the requirement for ongoing water and groundwater monitoring and management as part of the approval to redistrict/rezone land for resource extraction. Sturgeon County is working to compile a groundwater monitoring policy and necessary management plans, as needed.

What is the Community Aggregate Payment levy and where does the money go?

Resource extraction operators in Sturgeon County must pay a levy, called the Community Aggregate Payment (CAP) levy. These funds help keep taxes low and fund community services.

Council adopted a Community Grant Policy on Oct. 13, 2020, which details how CAP levy dollars are spent in the community. The below image shows how funds were distributed in 2022.

What are the proposed changes to the Community Aggregate Payment (CAP) Levy?

The Community Aggregate Payment (CAP) levy will be reviewed to determine how to distribute funds to balance the benefits to the broader community with the benefits to communities near resource extraction operations.

Groundwater Monitoring

Sturgeon County contracts an environmental consultant to monitor groundwater levels and water quality in areas surrounding resource extraction operations. This monitoring involves measuring water levels and collecting groundwater samples for chemical analysis from monitoring wells. These wells are located near operating, suspended or reclaimed operations. In May 2022, data was collected from 21 monitoring wells and six private water wells.

View the 2021 and 2022 Groundwater Monitoring Report.

The new rules include the requirement for ongoing water and groundwater monitoring and management as part of the approval to redistrict/rezone land for resource extraction. Sturgeon County is working to compile a groundwater monitoring policy and necessary management plans, as needed.

What We’ve Done

We started the Resource Extraction Regulatory Review in early 2020. This review included more than two years of expert analysis and public engagement, where we listened to resident, landowner and operator input. We conducted public surveys, interviews with industry members, several online and in-person open houses, and more.

View our what we heard report for a summary of the feedback we heard.

The RERR Final Report was accepted in March 2021. Its goal is to open up access to more sand and gravel deposits while maintaining or improving our natural environment and the human health, safety and quality of life of residents living near new pits.

Timeline

  • May to June 2020: phase one of public engagement
  • August 2020: Council accepted the best practices report and What We Heard Report from public engagement (phase one)
  • Oct. 19 to Nov. 6, 2020: phase two of public engagement
  • January 2021: Council accepted the What We Heard Report from public engagement (phase two)
  • Early 2021: Final reports and recommendations were presented to Council
  • March 23, 2021: Council accepted the RERR Final Report
  • May 3 to 20, 2022: phase three of public engagement
  • Oct. 25, 2022: Council accepted the consolidated What We Heard Report
  • Jan. 24, 2023: Council gave first reading to bylaw 1607/22, which proposed amendments to resource extraction regulations
  • March 15, 2023: Sturgeon County held a public hearing, allowing the community to provide feedback. Watch video of the public hearings and read written submissions. As part of the public hearings, we received questions from community members; view answers to these questions.
  • April 11, 2023: Council discussed the proposed bylaw, directed administration to prepare amendments.
  • May 9, 2023: Council directed administration to amend proposed Bylaw 1607/22 to reflect a split setback distance based on the commodity type, and to prepare a policy that provides additional guidance on resource extraction operations near livestock operations.
  • May 23, 2023: Council gave second reading of proposed Bylaw 1607/22.
  • June 22, 2023: Sturgeon County held a public hearing, allowing the community to provide feedback. Watch video of the public hearing and read written submissions. As part of the public hearings, we received questions from community members; view answers to these questions.
  • July 4, 2023: Council gave third and final reading of Bylaw 1607/22, which changes resource extraction regulations. The bylaw took effect on Sept. 30, 2023.

Sturgeon County offices will be closed Monday, February 19 for Family Day. Offices will re-open Tuesday, February 20 at 8:30 a.m.

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