At the Regular Meeting June 9, Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Council voted in favour of a staff recommendation allowing the RMOW’s asphalt needs to be sourced from Whistler, instead of Squamish, with a review of the decision in one year. Council also directed staff to work with the operator of the asphalt plant and gravel quarry to find ways to address concerns of the local residents.
The staff recommendation asked Council to revise the existing asphalt procurement requirements to allow RMOW projects to use asphalt from the asphalt plant located to the south of Cheakamus Crossing.
The licence of occupation for the asphalt plant and gravel quarry in Cheakamus Crossing is governed by the provincial government and is currently valid until 2027. Since 2011, RMOW Council maintained a directive that any asphalt used for RMOW projects be produced at least three kilometres from any Whistler neighbourhood. This resulted in Alpine Paving continuing to be the low bidder (or only bidder) on RMOW asphalt supply contracts, but supplying the asphalt from their plant in Squamish.
An information open house about asphalt procurement took place on February 17, 2020.
The open house outlined the reasons why the asphalt purchasing directive should be reconsidered:
- The asphalt plant in Cheakamus Crossing has continued to operate since 2011 and supplies the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), private land owners and other municipalities in the Sea-to-Sky corridor.
- Since 2010, the RMOW has operated and maintained an air quality monitoring station in Cheakamus Crossing at an average annual cost of $20,000-30,000 per year. All days monitored since 2010 have complied with the provincial standards for air quality monitoring, with the exception of the significant forest fire events in past summers.
- Since the 2011 direction from Council, the asphalt plant located south of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood has been upgraded with a modern exhaust scrubbing system that reduces particulate emissions from the facility, and the facility is capable of using recycled asphalt.
- Purchasing asphalt from the Squamish asphalt plant has added an additional $455,000 in direct cost to asphalt purchasing contracts for the RMOW from 2011 to 2019, and significant indirect costs to our other utility, parks, and recreation contracts that include asphalt.
- The environmental impact of transporting asphalt from Squamish instead of sourcing it from within Whistler is equal to between two and five percent of the RMOW’s entire GHG emissions.
- The Squamish asphalt plant is located 750 metres from a Squamish neighbourhood and has not undergone an upgrade to reduce emissions and particulate matter and cannot use recycled asphalt.
The decision to change the procurement directive will be reviewed in 2021, and if other options for purchasing asphalt for RMOW projects become available in the future, RMOW purchasing requirements will be reviewed again at that time.
"In the past we have tried very hard to have the plant move. So far we have been unsuccessful. We have directed staff to add language to our asphalt purchasing contract to encourage asphalt for our projects to be produced on days the plant is already operating - to not add to the number of days the plant is in operation,” said Mayor Jack Crompton. “Our goal is to work collaboratively with the operator to continue to mitigate impacts to the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.”
RMOW staff have started the process of engaging the plant and gravel quarry operator to determine what additional measures could be implemented to address the concerns of the local residents.
In 2010, the RMOW embarked on an extensive legal process to have the plant moved but in 2012, the BC Supreme Court upheld the asphalt plant’s right to remain in its current location. The RMOW also recommended that the License of Occupation for the asphalt plant and quarry only be renewed for a 1-year term in 2017, but the Province of BC has renewed that license at least until 2027.