Alberta’s North Raven River (also known as Stauffer Creek) ) is a celebrated and beloved fishery in central Alberta. Trout Unlimited Canada members, partners and supporters have invested millions of dollars and countless hours on conservation and restoration over several decades. It has become a showcase of what can be accomplished through the vision and cooperation of anglers and conservationists – restoring a degraded and compromised stream to a blue ribbon trout fishery with ecological benefits stretching well beyond the fly rod.
Over the past several years, there have been several proposals to develop gravel pits in the vicinity of the stream. While we understand the value of industrial development and the need for aggregate, we believe there are situations where the ecological risk is too high to proceed with such activities. In particular, aggregate extraction below the water table has been linked to changes in groundwater flow pattern, volume, timing and temperature. These groundwater inputs are essential to fish spawning and egg survival, overwintering, and the availability of invertebrates as a food source for the fish population.
In Summer 2015, Trout Unlimited Canada staff and members from both the Central Alberta Chapter and Northern Lights Fly Fishers attended an open house hosted by Border Paving Ltd. Border Paving had proposed to develop a gravel pit operation and before considering issuing a development permit, Clearwater County asked the company to hold an open house for the community. At the time, Border Paving explained their plan to develop a “dry pit” in which gravel extraction would only take place above the water table. We still had some concerns with the proposal and stated our concerns in a letter to Clearwater County.
Clearwater County did issue a development permit for the proposed pit. In the spring of 2017, we became aware that Border Paving had applied to Alberta Environment and Parks to undertake pet pit extraction at the proposed MQuiston Pit. TUC then submitted a Statement of Concern. At this time, the file is being reviewed by Alberta Environment and Parks.
Border Paving has recently applied to Clearwater County for a development permit to operate a wet/dry gravel pit operation on NW13-37-06-W5 (“Leavitt Pit”). Again our concerns are with the potential negative effects on groundwater flows and therefore the health and functionality of the North Raven River. Additionally, since this proposed pit is located within the floodplain of the Clearwater River, between the Clearwater and the North Raven, increased the risk of the river rerouting during a flood event, which has happened before.
Trout Unlimited Canada co-owns two conservation sites with the Alberta Conservation Association and the Alberta Fish and Game Association at the headwaters of the North Raven River. The Stainbrook Springs Conservation Site (SW19-37-05-W5) and Leavitt Conservation Site (NW17-37-5-W5) were purchased and are managed to protect the numerous headwater springs that feed the North Raven River with cold, clean water. The North Raven River is not only important to approximately 2,500 anglers that visit the region every year but also the communities and that live along and downstream of these sites that depend on this resource.
We’ve heard from others that are concerned about these issues as well:
Kyran from Red Deer: “As a new fly fisherman, and being a part of the younger generation of fisherman that have fished the North Raven river, it would be a shame to see such a unique fishery harmed or destroyed. I have met many people fishing these waters, young and old, including some who have been coming here for nearly half a century. I hope this great place will remain protected and be enjoyed by myself, and many others for generations to come. ”
Don Andersen, a long-time member of TUC’s Central Alberta Chapter also has a personal connection with this place having dedicated both time and money to restoration, management and protection of the North Raven River and its headwater springs. He recently shared his concerns with Alberta Environment and Parks.
What can you do?
Have your voice heard: Clearwater County is accepting written submissions of comments until July 6, 2017. These comments will be presented to the Municipal Planning Commission for review and consideration. This is your opportunity to share your concerns and have your voice heard.
- Share Your Concerns: Help to raise awareness of this issue within your network and your community. Start a conversation and encourage others to get involved.
- Get Involved: Join a local TUC chapter. The Central Alberta Chapter and Northern Lights Fly Fishers (Edmonton Chapter) have invested much time and effort into the North Raven River. Become and member and get involved!
- Write Your MLA: This is part of a larger issue of not only gravel extraction but other forms of development on floodplains and alluvial aquifers in Alberta. Write to your MLA and tell them it is important to you that our rivers and water resources are protected.
- Contact Trout Unlimited Canada for more information.