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Cambridge joins call for moratorium on new gravel pits and pit expansions

Motion inspired by North Dumfries' support for moratorium and impact from nearby pits on Cambridge
Gravel pit stock image

The City of Cambridge has joined a growing number of municipalities calling on the province to enact a moratorium on all new gravel pit applications, including expansions to existing licensed sites.

The motion, presented by Coun. Pam Wolf during Tuesday’s meeting, comes about a month after the Township of North Dumfries voted to support a similar call for a moratorium out of Halton Hills.

Aggregate producers hold 3,600 licenses and 2,500 permits for gravel extraction sites throughout the province, according to the resolution from Halton Hills.

In 2020, local operators extracted 5.7 million  tonnes of aggregate from pits in North Dumfries alone.

Wolf’s request that the city support its own motion relates to a Cambridge neighbourhood’s fight to keep a nearby pit in North Dumfries township from expanding.

Cambridge's motion includes amendments to limit the moratorium to southern Ontario and a request the province update its policy to require quarterly water monitoring reports from pit owners for extractions below the groundwater table.

That amendment from Coun. Jan Liggett prompted Mayor Kathryn McGarry to warn that a moratorium for the entire province could impact northern communities where building access roads is often time sensitive to acquiring provincial funding. 

If a moratorium delays opening temporary pits to build those roads, some of those small communities could lose out, she said.

The former Cambridge MPP and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry offered the example of a community north of Thunder Bay that required repairs to a deteriorating road but struggled to find the funding on its own and had to seek provincial support with a one-year build timeline.

“I don’t want to see northern communities in particular hamstrung by this area,” she said, recommending council amend the motion to restrict a moratorium to southern Ontario.

“Even though we hate them,” Coun. Jan Liggett suggested northern communities would be able to apply for an exemption to the moratorium under a Minister’s Zoning Order.

She’s worried limiting the moratorium to southern Ontario would exclude some communities that are facing impacts from gravel extraction operations.

But McGarry said she isn’t certain an MZO would apply to opening a temporary pit.

“And you’ll also note that it’s a messy process and this particular minister has asked for community consultation first in order to do that, even though it’s not in the legislation,” she said.

An MZO could further delay any urgent requirements in those communities, McGarry added.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the mayor’s motion to limit the moratorium to southern Ontario.