A fight is about to begin as South Delta faces the biggest brunt of the provincial government's objectives to accommodate Pacific Gateway trade.
"Enough is enough. We were never asked if we wanted our community to become an industrial park. This entire project, from port to Deltaport Way, to rail corridors, to SFPR to third berth has been by increments and has avoided an accumulated impact assessment as a result," said Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington.
"We have been lied to and bought off and this government needs to know we aren't going to let this development happen," she said.
Huntington recently released information on plans to industrialize almost 600 acres of prime Delta farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve to complement port activities with warehouse logistics.
Huntington found that a warehouse developer signed $98 million in options to buy 11 farm parcels located near Highway 17 and Deltaport Way. At the centre of the deals is Lamington Heights Investments, a warehouse distribution company associated with the Emerson Real Estate Group.
The Council of Canadians says it's joining with local residents to oppose the potential loss of agricultural land, port expansion and a proposed free trade zone.
Cathy Wilander, chair of the Delta/Richmond chapter of the Council of Canadians, said the exposure of multi-million dollar speculative option agreements comes just as the council and allies prepare to launch a massive campaign to stop the industrialization of the Fraser delta.
"There is a long history of community support for preserving and protecting Delta, including last year's occupation of the South Fraser freeway," said Wilander. "In fact, 'Ours to preserve by hand and heart' is the municipality's official motto."
She added, "This is all part of a coordinated strategy to convert the last great reserve of arable land in the Lower Mainland into container storage yards, trucking depots and warehouses. Combined with other developments already announced or in the works, you won't recognize the Fraser delta in 10 years - if we don't stop this travesty."
Meanwhile, noting the optioned Delta farmland is not zoned for industrial use, and is earmarked as green space in Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy, the regional district's agriculture committee said it will investigate the optionto-purchase agreements.
Committee vice-chair Harold Steves last week told the Optimist the province will face a battle if it tries to remove the prime farmland from the ALR.
The province recently unveiled the Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy 2012-2020, a series of measures to be started or already underway to improve the supply chain on the West Coast.
Premier Christy Clark described the multi-billion dollar plan as an important one in expanding British Columbia's transportation network, strengthening infrastructure to get goods to market and generating sustainable economic growth.
According to a report outlining the strategy, the plan includes carrying out over $250 million worth of private sector railway investments in transload facilities and exploring the feasibility of developing new integrated logistics facilities to make the movement of containers to and from ports more efficient.
"Currently, containers may be emptied, filled and stored at dozens of small, unconnected off-dock sites spread across large areas - with trucks moving to and from these sites with limited coordination. Integrated logistics facilities in Vancouver and Prince Rupert will minimize truck movements, reduce environmental impacts and ensure the safe movement of goods. Industry will explore the feasibility of creating centralized, integrated facilities for each port."
Initiatives already underway in South Delta include increasing container capacity by carrying out the Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Project, announced in the B.C. Jobs Plan, and new investments in the $2-billion Roberts Bank Terminal 2, a new three-berth container terminal to be built adjacent to the existing Deltaport terminal.
The report notes the T2 project "could be designed and constructed in phases, depending on market conditions. This is the second phase (following the Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Project) of Port Metro Vancouver's Container Capacity Improvement Program - a long-term strategy to support growing international trade in an efficient and sustainable manner."
As far as the Tsawwassen First Nation, the report notes the TFN Economic Development Corporation is working on projects within its industrial lands that take advantage of its proximity to Deltaport, such as a container examination facility and container storage and repair facility.
All this, in addition to the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which is under construction, would be further enhanced by the establishment of a foreign trade zone, likely at the TFN.
Huntington said all signs point to the government willing to turn South Delta into an industrial wasteland, especially if it allows prime farmland to be converted to transload facilities.
Mayor Lois Jackson said she's not sure what can be done to stop further industrialization due to Delta being seen as a key geographic location.