MVC suspends road-use agreements
Soft roads and wet weather led Mountain View County last week to suspend all road-use agreements with industry.
The suspension took effect Wednesday morning and was renewed Thursday. It was set to expire at Sunday midnight when conditions will again be assessed, operations director Michael MacLean told the Gazette Thursday.
“The weather is really what’s determining the extent and duration of the suspension,” MacLean said.
An inspection Thursday found that some roads are “tightening up” but others are continuing to retain water, he said.
“Safety is the big thing. We need to ensure the roads are safe.”
The suspension, which applies to 13 active road-use agreements, has delayed two rig moves, only one of them under a long-term agreement, MacLean said. It should not affect companies’ normal maintenance activities, he said.
Div. 6 Coun. Paddy Munro brought the issue to council last Wednesday, calling for a policy to prevent the county’s gravel roads from “getting pounded to death” by industrial activity.
“What is the problem? The problem is us. It’s up to us to give direction with policy,” the former reeve told councillors.
Munro said he received a complaint from an Eagle Hill resident whose wife had to stay in four-wheel drive to make it home on their gravel road. “It’s outrageous.”
MacLean said he had received “a lot of calls” from councillors and residents leading up to that morning’s suspension of road-use agreements.
“We have to be more diligent. In weather like this we have to be on the road,” MacLean said.
“(Companies) are not necessarily doing this on purpose. They have business to do and will carry on with their regular activities. It’s up to Mountain View County to determine if that activity is having an impact on the structure of the road or safety … of the travelling public.”
The department, he added, would show no bias. “It’s not just oil and gas. We have B-Trains, gravel trucks, farming activity. It’s not just oil and gas, and they’ll be treated equally.”
That statement did not sit well with Div. 1 Coun. Kevin Good.
“Where I depart from the recommendation is how we’re gonna impact the ag community,” Good said. “To do a blanket ban … would not benefit the ag community.”
Compared to oil and gas companies, which can move 10 loads or more a day, agriculture has minimal impact, he said.
“I would be more in favour of a road-by-road ban and not have people on the east side of the county affected by a ban when they haven’t had rain.”
Div. 3 Coun. Duncan Milne agreed that bans would work better on a road-by-road basis and said the problem “isn’t so much the weight as going over the road repeated times.”
Div. 5 Coun. Bob Orr said the road-use agreement is the proper way to address the issue.
“In Clearwater, every company operating in the county has a road-use agreement. Somewhere we’re falling short. I think it’s our road-use agreement that’s flawed,” Orr said.
“These guys have no boundaries. In Clearwater they get fined if they don’t have a road-use agreement in the vehicle.”
Motions for administration to review county road bans and the road-use agreements template carried unanimously. Both reports are due to be presented at the May 23 policies and priorities committee meeting.
Council also voted for administration to review dust control policies and report back with recommendations at the June 13 P&P meeting. Munro and other councillors argued that companies should be required to apply calcium to suppress dust for the length of their haul routes.
“Something that creates that much impact to our roads should be looked at differently for the creation of dust,” Good said.
And, at Kemmere’s urging, council also approved a motion for the CAO to organize a presentation from Transportation Routing and Vehicle Information System (TRAVIS) officials. TRAVIS was designed by Alberta Transportation to coordinate municipal and provincial permitting for overweight and oversized loads.
During the wide-ranging discussion, Reeve Bruce Beattie asked what the county could do about a half-mile mud path along Bergen Road created by vehicles exiting a lease site.
“We can suspend it if it’s under a road-use agreement,” MacLean said. “If it’s not under a road-use agreement we can still stop them and require them to clean up the mess they’ve made.”
Div. 7 Coun. Al Kemmere noted that rig matting was used to successfully combat a mud problem on Highway 766 several years ago that had become a real safety concern. Rather than ban roads in some cases, he said, companies might be able “to mat it, or double mat it, so they can continue to do their business but we can protect our ratepayers too.”
Div. 2 Coun. Patricia McKean concurred that rig mats were a good idea, and added that she has seen other cleanup measures taken by companies trying to minimize their impact on roads. “There are other ways,” she said.