County denies lease to develop Faust Osmose site

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County council supports a vision to turn an old contaminated osmose site in Faust into a park.

But council opposes any plan to lease the Crown land that now includes major costs to the county.

At its regular meeting March 11, council defeated a motion to enter into a lease with Alberta Environment and Parks that would have cost the county more that $12,000 in the application process.

“Council doesn’t want to lease the land,” Reeve Richard Simard says.

“We don’t want to go through the consultation process and expend a lot of costs required in the application.”

Costs and other requirements were stated by Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

Olansky states costs of the historic resources impact assessment ranged from $8,500 to $11,000, and the wildlife survey is estimated at $4,000.

She did not state a figure for the cost to consult eight Indigenous communities before a lease would be considered and approved.

As part of the application process, Big Lakes would have been required to consult East Prairie Metis Settlement, Gift Lake Metis Settlement, Peavine Metis Settlement, Driftpile Cree Nation Kapawe’no First Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Swan River First Nation and Sawridge First Nation.

Kinuso Councillor Ken Killeen was the first to express opposition.

“We don’t want to lease the land,” he says.

North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews opposed the lease at any cost.

“Our request now includes required consultation and studies at our own costs,” Matthews says.

“It will cost us and taxpayers.”

Even with consultation, he wonders if a lease and plan would get full support.

“One of the groups may not agree,” Matthews says.

Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard was the only council member to favour the motion to proceed with the lease.

“I can’t see it costing the county a lot of money,” Nygaard says.

“I can’t see why we can’t proceed with the lease.”

Council planned to develop a trail system in the area as part of the lease.

“We’re working to towards building tourism and this is something that could be a big thing for the region,” Nygaard.

Council now wants to invite Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon to the county to discuss options in Faust to locate trails.

Faust was the location of a wood-treating and wood-preserving site from 1961-69 before a fire and explosion closed the operation.

Several products known to cause cancer were used to treat the wood. The 1969 fire was the main cause of contaminants that spread in the vicinity.

Work progresses to remediate contaminated land in Faust previously operated by the Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd.

Plans were presented by Alberta Environment and Parks at an open house April 26, 2018 in Faust.

Identified sites were capped as the main way to protect land.

Contamination has not affected water, including Lesser Slave Lake, says one AEP official.

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