North Cowichan neighbours oppose mine permit for farm cistern dig

While neighbours are expressing concerns about a proposed rock quarry on a Richards Trail property, the applicant is insisting that she is just trying to dig a cistern for her farm and needs a mining permit to move forward. Catherine Pastula of Pastula Farms said she has been digging the cistern for three or four years and selling some of the gravel it produces, but because of the amount of gravel she is selling, she has been told by the Municipality of North Cowichan that she requires a quarry permit.

"We are building a water cistern because we need to have water and we’ve been encouraged as a farm to do this," Pastula explained.

Pastula said that she doesn’t sell all the gravel that results, and that she has only blasted twice in the last year. Despite her application for a quarry permit, there won’t be any additional blasting on her site, nor any increase in hauling.

"Nothing’s going to change," she said.

At the heart of the dispute between Pastula and the neighbours who oppose the permit is the nature of Richards Trail. Pastula says it is a commercial highway, while the Save Richards Trail Committee says it is a quiet rural road that attracts tourists. Committee spokesperson Peter Morris noted that the permit would allow the farm to remove 25,000 tonnes of gravel per year, which, at an estimated 10 or 11 tonnes per dump truck, would drastically increase industrial traffic.

"Richards Trail was never designed for that use," he said.

The trail is very popular with cyclists, Morris noted, adding that he counted no fewer than 100 passing his home last Sunday. He also said that Pastula has no need for a cistern on her property, and that there are already many sand and gravel operations in the Cowichan Valley, and another one just isn’t necessary.

The Save Richards Trail Committee is also concerned about noise from blasting, which the permit would allow to run every day between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., the possible impact on the aquifer and the Somenos watershed, the decrease of property values, and the destruction of the Richards Mountain landscape.

The committee will present a petition to North Cowichan council next Wednesday, and will ask the municipality to oppose the permit application, which is before the Ministry of Energy and Mines. "It’s not a safe thing to have here," Morris said. "It’s not a bonus for the environment or eco-tourism."

Pastula countered that Richards Trail was an agricultural area long before any of the opposed residents bought property there, and that the cistern is a necessary part of running her farm.

"They moved here after the fact," she said. "Why do you move into a farm area when you don’t want to live beside a farm?"