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Update: MLA fears for South Delta farmland
Wrong place. Wrong use.
That's the opinion of Delta-South independent MLA Vicki Huntington who said according to information she has discovered, a vast amount of local farmland could be slated for industrial, port-related development.
Huntington said there are options to purchase 558 acres of ALR property located in the area between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way. Value of the land is estimated at $98 million.
“Port-related corporations like CN Rail, CP Rail and Western Stevedoring are working with developers who are actively seeking prime land in the Agricultural Land Reserve,” said Huntington in a press release Tuesday (April 3). “The potential loss is even greater than the 512 acres (207 ha) of ALR lost to the Tsawwassen Treaty. The combined loss could reach over 1000 acres. The targeted land is some of the best agricultural soil in Canada and represents a critically productive mass in Delta.”
The land options involve Lamington Heights Investments.
Huntington said the documents show that option-to-purchase agreements have been signed on 11 parcels of productive farmland. With one exception, all options expire Nov. 30, 2013.
Huntington said she believes developers are keen to acquire all of the agricultural land between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way.
Helping pave the way for that, Huntington contends, is the provincial government’s recently announced Pacific Gateway and B.C. Ports Strategies whose mandate is to acquire land for strategic port-related industry.
“The province is completely complicit in this effort to industrialize the ALR,” Huntington said.
“This is the industrialization of agriculture on a grand scale,” Huntington said. “This is big money, big business and big government. There is no doubt these plans would greatly increase port capacity and efficiency. And in other circumstances the development would be extremely exciting. But this is the wrong place and the wrong land.”
With the huge sums of money being offered for the land, Huntington said she understands the position the owners are in may be difficult to refuse.
“Few people would turn down this kind of money, especially when it’s clear the ALR means so little to our government,” she said. “It’s disappointing, though, when even our pioneer farming families don’t fight this destruction of farmland.”
Apart from the arguments of eroding the environment and food security, at stake with the possible development is a destabilization of the Pacific Migratory bird flyway, Huntington said.
“Without the upland forage that agricultural land provides, the ecosystem supporting the Pacific Migratory bird flyway will collapse,” she said. “Not to mention the fact that B.C. already imports more than half the food consumed in this province.
“Industry has a habit of saying ‘we need to balance the economy and the environment.’ But in the face of development in the Lower Mainland, Delta’s agricultural land is all that’s left to support the Flyway. Delta is the balance.”
David Bradbeer, program coordinator at Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust, said the area in question is used by a diversity of wildlife, including migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and wintering raptors.
"It's a fairly simple math equation. Less habitat, less birds," Bradbeer said, explaining it would take some study to determine the final "tipping point" when it comes to the potential loss of habitat for certain species. He said the soil between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way would likely be similar to that found across Delta.
"It varies on how productive it is, but generally the silt clay soils of Delta hold a lot of nutrients and can grow a wide array of crops," he said.
Tsawwassen naturalist Anne Murray is also concerned.
"People have to realize that if they make this choice to industrialize everything, not only are they ruining the area for themselves in terms of the ability to grow food, but they're also ruining it for other species that share the world with us, and it's disastrous for them," she said.
The latest development is just another in a long line of impositions on the South Delta community, Huntington said, listing a series of other issues residents have protested over the past decade.
“It never seems to end,” Huntington said. “High Voltage Transmission Lines; treaty lands excluded from the ALR; the Third Berth; new rail yards; Terminal 2; the South Fraser Perimeter Road; overpasses, underpasses, access roads and interchanges; and now intermodal yards and logistics parks.
“This government is sacrificing Delta–and our agricultural heritage—to oblige Gateway. At some point we have to say, ‘this isn’t going to happen.'”
—With files from Christine Lyon