Posts Tagged ‘Farmland’

Emily Payne

It’s heard in the low grumbling of the construction trucks. It’s seen in the circling birds overhead, exhausted and tired of looking for somewhere to stop and feed. It’s felt in the changing winds, the dirty smell in the air now, traveling through town. Just south of Vancouver, situated on the Fraser River delta is the community of Delta. The construction of the 40 km long, 80 km/hr South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) is of big controversy, and is planned to make its way directly through Delta’s farmland, a seed bank of fertile prime farming land. One of the greatest threats faced from the construction of the SFPR is the loss of this farmland and the associated ecological impacts that will be seen in Burns Bog. There will be deepening impacts on regional access to local food in the Fraser Valley in the future, while wildlife habitat, bog hydrology and water contamination will be the major issues impacting biodiversity of the Delta region.

It is widely believed that the Delta region has some of the most productive farmland in British Columbia, if not all of Canada. The agricultural loss from the SFPR will be significant. Over 1000 acres of farmland will be lost and wiped out completely. Over 30 farms, most of them family farms will be directly affected by the construction of the road, and hundreds more will be impacted from various forms of pollution.[i] In a time where food security, environmental protection and lowering our carbon emissions are increasingly hot topics, it seems the South Fraser Perimeter Road is mindlessly moving forward in the wrong direction.

Delta farmers have stories to tell. Dozens of them have been in communication and negotiation battles with Gateway (SFPR’s parent project) representatives for up to three years. One of these farmers is Warren Nottingham[ii]. In July of 2009, Nottingham had more than 80 of his 249 acre property expropriated because of SFPR construction. His land will be divided in two by the freeway; his blueberry crop will not be accessible for annual harvest. Nottingham has been in and out of meeting for two years, and at each one was looking for timeline and commitments, and received zero promises from Gateway representatives. In an interview with the local Delta Optimist newspaper, Nottingham said that “they (the Gateway project managers) weren’t very committal at all. Our consultation with them has been a very bad experience. We found that this consultation process was a scam.”[iii] Nottingham has lived his whole life, and is only one of many farmers in Delta that struggled and lost the right to farm on his own property.

In regards to ecological impacts of the projects, the current Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, Stockwell Day, has commented by saying that “the federal government thoroughly evaluates the environmental implications associated with transportation projects through Environmental Assessments.  Therefore, if need be, projects can be modified to prevent, minimize, or manage adverse environmental effects…  the [SFPR] project was subjected to a coordinated federal-provincial Environmental Assessment process, as required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act.[iv]” These environmental assessments that Day refers to were released over the past two years; there was coordinated review of the South Fraser Perimeter Road by BC Environmental Assessment Act (BCEAA) and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Environment Canada’s Environmental Assessment Report of South Fraser Perimeter Road was released on August 17, 2007. The results of the report were in depth and extensive, and highlighted the impacts specifically on Burns Bog (often referred to as the ‘lungs of the Lower Mainland’) and the surrounding ecological area. The results of the report suggested that:

“If the highway is built without any mitigative/protection structures between it and the Bog, there are very high risks of negative impacts on bog hydrology because all incursion into the water mound and peat mass change bog hydrology and directly jeopardize integrity. In particular, water exiting the Bog will pond against the highway in roadside ditches, and water running off the highway on the Bog side (and flowing into the bog) will carry petro-chemical contaminants, heavy metals, and nutrient-rich water from the road surface and road fill material.”[v] The remainder of the report has stated, in effect, that if the road continues as planned, the ecological impacts will be severe and irreversible. The report from BCEAA echoed that of Environment Canada’s, highlighting the severity of its ecological impacts, specifically the detrimental effects this will have on hydrology and wildlife habitat[vi].

As the impacts of the SFPR will most deeply affect the Delta, the Municipality of Delta’s key requests put forth to the Gateway Project (the parent project of the SFPR) related to agriculture were to have “no net loss of agricultural land in Delta”, and that the “indirect impacts be fully mitigated”[vii].  A number of suggestions were made in order to mitigate impacts from Delta Council. To continue with construction, the Gateway Project legally had to developed two (which are rather timid of a solid monitoring strategy) documents containing commitments in response to municipal, provincial and federal environmental and ecological concerns about the project which include the Agricultural Enhancement Strategy and the Summary of Agricultural Impacts and Mitigation/Compensation Commitments.[viii] Both of these documents outline commitments to the community of Delta and strategies to be implemented (none of which have to date). Unfortunately, these documents have generally been ignored, the monitoring process has been severely overlooked, as has any real consideration for the dire impacts on the local Delta ecosystems.

Furthermore, outlined in a report by the Agricultural Land Reserve, it was confirmed that “Environment Canada concludes that the management objectives for restoration of Burns Bog, to which the Province of BC, GVRD and Corporation of Delta committed to Canada in the Conservation Covenant and further articulated in the Burns Bog Management Plan are likely not attainable should the project proceed as proposed.”[ix] Again and again, environmental warnings in various forms have been generally overlooked, as the construction moves forward each passing day with little to no implementation of any real mitigation, as promised.

Many long-time Delta farms and their farmers have been deeply impacted by the aggressive and ecologically destructive construction of the SFPR. More than ever before, the ecosystem of Burns Bog is under serious threat of irreversible hydrological damage. There are 1000 acres of some of the most prime agricultural farmland in Canada current being paved over t construction of the SFPR.[x] Not surprisingly, the Tyee Vancouver independent newspaper has proclaimed Delta South as “the angriest riding in BC”[xi], for its public outrage and resilience in opposing large development projects. Hopefully, with the force and initiative emerging from many Delta and non-Delta residents, we will see stronger leadership to protect local farmland and food security. At a bare minimum, more legitimate environmental monitoring is a necessity, as is enforcement of the implementation of mitigation strategies already put forth by the Gateway Project. More holistically, the SFPR must be put under a large microscope to reevaluate its destructive presence in the BC’s agricultural hub, and explore alternatives.

Works Cited

[i] Vicki Huntington, Sunbury Neighbourhood Association. 2009, Aug 5. Surrey Leader. http://www.sunburyneighbourhood.ca/LeaderAug0509.htm

[ii] Farmer is Cut off from his Crop. 2009, July 22. Delta Optimist.  http://www.burnsbog.org/press/DeltaOptimistJuly222009.pdf

[iii] ibid

[iv] Stockwell Day, Member of Parliament. Accessed Nov 25 2009. http://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/ProfileMP.aspx?Key=128690&Language=E

[v] Environmental Assessement Certificate. 2008, Dec 17. South Fraser Perimeter Road Project. BC Provincial Government. http://a100.gov.bc.ca/appsdata/epic/documents/p196/1217023746218_8e248a8d30d969dba791b0ee48adbedba385a0664697.pdf

[vi] South Fraser Perimeter Road: Environmental Assessment Update. 2007, Nov 5. Corporation of Delta. http://www.corp.delta.bc.ca/assets/HRCP/PDF/sfpr_ea_update_20071105.pdf

[vii] Gateway’s Response to Delta’s Comments on Environmental Assessment. 2007, Apr 2. Corporation of Delta. http://www.corp.delta.bc.ca/assets/HRCP/PDF/sfpr_gateways_ea_response_presentation.pdf

[viii]Approval of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. 2008, Dec 3. Agricultural Land Reserve. http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/application_status/Docs/38351d1.pdf

[ix] ibid

[x] ibid

[xi] Angriest Riding in BC. 2009, May 7. Tyee Newspaper. http://thetyee.ca/Photo/2009/05/07/AngryRiding/

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