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Tougher legislation to offer soil protection

Delta is looking to beef up its regulations around soil deposit and removal on agricultural land.

Delta is looking to beef up its regulations around soil deposit and removal on agricultural land.

Civic politicians approved a draft soil conservation and protection bylaw Monday night that will now be brought forward for public consideration and discussion with stakeholders.

"We are bringing forward this draft in order to protect agricultural land," said Mayor Lois Jackson.

Chief administrative officer George Harvie said surrounding municipalities have stronger bylaws and it's time for Delta to do the same.

The draft bylaw mirrors Surrey's regulations.

While the deposit of soil on agricultural land, particularly in low-lying areas, is often necessary to make a farm successful, for dike maintenance or construction of farm access roads, in recent years, according to a staff report, there has been a increasing number of instances where fill material is being used in volumes and in locations where it is deemed unnecessary or inappropriate.

"The cumulative effect of these fill operations is to gradually erode the agricultural land base as a prime topsoil is covered over with less fertile subsoil (often mixed with poor quality material such as construction waste)," Harvie stated in a report to Delta council.

"With the high demand for disposal sites, trucking companies will pay up to $150 per load -- a significant financial incentive for some landowners -- that can result in significant volumes of fill being deposited without due consideration of the long-term impacts."

Soil deposit and removal on agricultural land is "poorly regulated" under Delta's current bylaw with ambiguous language that makes the practice difficult to enforce, Harvie said.

The new bylaw will require a permit to be obtained except in limited circumstances.

As well, a proposed $1,000 application fee may be used by the municipality to obtain an independent agrologist's report on any proposed fill or removal operation.

jkerr@delta-optimist.com