WHEREAS the Historical Resources Act states that “the property in all archaeological resources and paleontological resources within Alberta is vested in the Crown in right of Alberta”; and
WHEREAS adoption of legislation by the Government of Alberta can impact private property rights and may increase certain costs related to developing natural resources on private property; and
WHEREAS changes to the Historical Resources Act by the Government of Alberta have resulted in increased costs to private property owners who wish to develop gravel aggregate resources; and
WHEREAS the legislation and policy changes made to the Historical Resources Act were made without widespread public consultation or knowledge, and
WHEREAS the legislation and policy changes within the revised Historical Resources Act resulted in the establishment of a Historic Resource Value Designations applicable to all public and private lands in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the designation of lands as having high historic resource value imposes on property owners unforeseen costs and substantial financial risks for projects requiring Historical Resources Impact Assessments and approval from Alberta Arts, Culture and Status of Women; and
WHEREAS expanding existing gravel pits beyond five hectares may necessitate Historical Resource Act approval, incurring significant costs for landowners through mandated Historical Resources Impact Assessments, even with prior disturbances in the immediate expansion area; and
WHEREAS the additional costs resulting from the requirements under the revised Historical Resources Act have, in some cases, made the expansion of the gravel pit financially unviable; and
WHEREAS the Select Special Committee on Real Property Rights made six recommendations pertaining to its mandate including “That the Government [of Alberta] develop a comprehensive compensation structure by which owners of real property are compensated if regulatory changes result in the removal of reasonable uses of real property”; and
WHEREAS Part 5, Section 50 (1) of the Historical Resources Act states, that “The Minister may authorize the payment of compensation in accordance with the regulations to any person who has suffered loss as the result of the application of this Act”;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) advocate to the Government of Alberta (GOA) to implement a mechanism that will require a review of all existing and future legislation to determine negative financial impacts to private property; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA request the GOA to implement recommendation six from the Special Committee on Real Property Rights, and that private property owners impacted by the changes to the Historical Resources Act be compensated.
The Historical Resources Management Branch (HRMB) of Alberta Arts, Culture and Status of Women administers matters related to historical resources including archeological resources in Alberta.
Alberta Arts, Culture and Status of Women Land Use Procedures Bulletin for Surface Materials Historical Resources Act (HRA) Compliance Section B requires that applicants must apply for Historical Resource Act approval for all proposed surface materials developments over 5.0 hectares in size. At the ministry’s discretion, a Historical Resources Impact Assessment (HRIA) may be required.
For surface material operations five hectares or larger on public land or Class 1 pits as defined in the Code of Practice for Pits on private land applicants must apply for HRA approval through Alberta Culture’s online permitting and approval system for ALL proposed surface materials developments over five hectares in size. Development activities cannot proceed until HRA approval has been obtained.
At the Government of Alberta’s discretion, activities that are targeted for lands that will, or are likely to, contain significant historic resource sites MAY require the conduct of HRIA prior to the onset of development activities.
A copy of the Historical Resources Act approval document must be included with the Conservation and Reclamation Business Plan that is submitted to Alberta Environment and Protected Areas. This plan is mandatory for registration of a gravel pit under the Code of Practice.
In 2021, during the application stage to expand an existing gravel pit, the Municipal District of Willow Creek undertook an archaeology survey as part of a Stage 1 Historical Resources Impact Mitigation review which is a requirement of the HRIA. This was completed by the developer at a cost of $22,889.
During the review of the lands upon where the existing gravel pit was located it was determined that the ‘Listing of Historical Resources’ index described the land as having Historic Resources Value (HRV) of five. Given that lands with an HRV of five are considered to have “high potential” but do not contain known historic resource sites, there is a requirement to seek HRA approval/clearance. However, Section 31 of the Historical Resources Act requires that anyone who discovers a historic resource during the course of development must notify Alberta Arts, Culture and Status of Women for direction on the most appropriate action.
Through the HRIA a historical resource site was newly discovered consisting of heated stones and stone chips. It was determined that additional archaeological work would be required which would consist of excavation of an area approximately 80m2 with work expected to take approximately 14 days. The cost for this work was expected to be $139,941.51. Following the completion of the required field work an interim report would be issued summarizing the results of the HRIM fieldwork which would be provided to the HRMB that would guide their regulatory review of the gravel pit expansion application and provide the basis for the regulatory response which may include a Historical Resources Act approval or alternatively the issuance of a Stage 2 Historical Resources Impact Mitigation study which would require an unknown amount of additional archaeology work at an unknown additional cost. This results in a considerable risk to the landowner.
The Historical Resources Management Branch Schedule requirements states “depending on the results of the Stage 1 investigation, Stage 2 investigation may be required.” This caveat is intended by the HRMB to reserve the possibility that during the required fieldwork materials may be found that warrant additional work however this placed a significant and unknown risk to the municipality and the landowner in terms of cost and as such the expansion of the application to expand the gravel pit did not proceed.
As a result of the requirements of the Historical Resource Management Branch substantial costs already spent by the Municipal District and the landowner on the application process were lost and more significantly scarce gravel resources immediately adjacent to a working gravel pit have been permanently sterilized from future development and use.
In June 2022, the Select Special Committee on Real Property Rights made six recommendations pertaining to its mandate including recommendation six: “That the Government develop a comprehensive compensation structure by which owners of real property are compensated if regulatory changes result in the removal of reasonable uses of real property.” In this case, the private landowner has lost an estimated $250,000 in revenue as the aggregate cannot be mined without completing the $139,941.51 HRIA. Depending on the HRIA’s findings there may be a requirement to complete more assessments. Furthermore, as a result of the Act, the municipality’s service delivery cost to the community has increased as aggregates now need to be hauled further from alternative gravel pits to service the local roads.
Historical Resource Value (HRV)
Maps of Southern Region: Listing of Historic Resources (alberta.ca)
Blue areas on the map indicate a Historical Resource Value of 5 which results in a requirement for approval from the Alberta Government on surface materials developments over 5 hectares. This process holds the potential for Alberta Culture to order additional work as a condition of its approval at the landowner’s cost.
Note that the HRV 5 follows every river, stream or major coulee feature in southern Alberta: an area where gravel resources are prominently found.
Historical Resource Impact Assessment Process: https://www.alberta.ca/historic-resource-impact-assessment.aspx
If an activity is likely to result in the alteration of, damage to or destruction of a historic resource, the person or company undertaking the activity may be required by the province to:
Project-specific requirements are issued in response to a Historic Resources Application, but all assessments must comply with some standard conditions.
See the following Standard Conditions document for details: Standard Conditions under the Historical Resources Act
Alberta Historic Resources Management Branch – Listing of Historic Resources (Map): Listing of Historic Resources (alberta.ca)
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.