Corporations and government should buck up if they intend to impact any more of Delta's farmland.
Coun. Ian Paton made that declaration recently during a Delta council discussion on Port Metro's Vancouver's plan to build another container terminal at Roberts Bank.
Civic politicians, who received a staff report on the port authority's current consultation for Terminal 2 (T2), were told by Paton that a resolution recently passed by the Delta Farmers' Institute calls for serious financial compensation to mitigate the loss of agricultural land.
Paton, a Ladner farmer and member of the DFI, said farmers recently held a meeting with guest speaker Norm Letnick, B.C.'s minister of agriculture, where the idea of mandatory compensation was presented.
"This is kind of a blockbuster. It's coming as a draft proposal and will be copied to Delta and the province," Paton said.
"We are seriously looking at mitigation measures for the loss of agriculture land in Delta, and this is happening in countries all over the world. Whether it's rail lines, whether it's port expansion, whether it's hydro lines, we've seen so much burdened upon Delta over the years. They're able to come in and able to expropriate land, they're able to purchase land and take it out of the Agricultural Land Reserve to make way for progress," he said.
With the exception of drainage improvements for local farmers as mitigation for the South Fraser Perimeter Road, there hasn't really been much in the way of mitigation to the farming community, Paton explained.
"The draft coming forward is to seriously consider that there must be money put up by huge corporations, such as the port, if they want to take out agricultural land for future expansion, for railway lines, for intermodel yards, etc.
There has to be a cost per acre paid back to a fund for agriculture in Delta," he said.
Paton said such a fund could pay for such projects as bringing fresh irrigation water to Westham Island.
DFI president John Savage, who brought forward the motion at the farmers' meeting, told the Optimist another much needed project for Westham Island is improving the dike system.
"We've got Westham Island sitting there. You've got a port expansion coming. When they are dredging for depth for the new terminal, why not send it to Westham Island?" he asked. "We've lost so much land for other uses, we need to bring that amount of acreage back into production."
Savage said the DFI is an important organization that could administer a mitigation fund, but the DFI itself could also use funding to keep operating.
Port Metro Vancouver is wrapping up what it calls a project definition phase for T2. Delta has been asked to comment on the project.
The three-berth terminal is being proposed to meet a forecasted demand in container shipments. It will be capable of handling the largest post-Panamax ships.
The report to council notes that, from a municipal perspective, there are several problems with the port authority's method of consultation.
Regarding mitigation for the loss of agricultural land, Coun. Robert Campbell said he doesn't like Delta being asked to choose from several options provided by Port Metro Vancouver.
He said all those options, including topsoil conservation and irrigation improvements, shouldn't be considered options at all and must all be implemented equally.
Mayor Lois Jackson said it's too early at this stage to provide feedback. Giving preferences could be seen as support for T2, when, in fact, there's not enough information, she said.
Council deferred making comment until Port Metro Vancouver has formally submitted an application.
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