It could once again be “open season” for dumping on Delta farmland, warns Mayor George Harvie.
During a recent Delta council discussion on the final report by a special committee appointed by the province to come up with recommendations for revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve and Agricultural Land Commission, Harvie expressed concern about Delta’s ability to enforce its stringent soil deposit bylaws.
“It’s because of the province’s inability to regulate that we ended up with a longstanding court case that’s still going on with Princess Farms. What arises from that is the council of the day supported, and we worked with the Agricultural Land Commission, to allow us to have the delegated authority to enforce our soil deposit bylaw on our Delta agricultural lands,” said Harvie.
“If those are ruled as non-enforceable, we’re right back where we started where it’s open season for soil deposits from excavations on our farms, and I’m very concerned about that.”
Four years ago, the city enacted its own regulations for deposit permits, placing the onus on property owners to maintain a log of trucks coming and going. A bylaw officer maintains a log when watching a property from a distance, and then goes to the site to ensure those licence plates are on the log the property owner has maintained. The fine for not having a dump truck registered on the log is $500 per truck.
In the fall of 2014, council also approved tougher legislation to regulate soil removal and deposit activities on farmland. That move was made in response to continued concerns about fill, including asphalt and concrete, being dumped on good agricultural land.
The legislation is supported through monitoring, by land and air, by Delta staff as well as a Soil Watch program in which area farmers act as Delta's eyes and ears.
Three years earlier, Delta first took tough measures against the dumping of fill or contaminated soil on farmland with a bylaw requiring a permit before material can even be trucked in.
A staff report at the time noted, "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)."
A B.C. Supreme Court trial is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2019 in the Princess Farms case. Delta, which has joined with Metro Vancouver, alleges that damage occurred within the Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy Area as a result of deposit activities carried out on the adjacent 104th Street property in East Delta.
The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2013.
The farm is within the ALR but hasn’t been used for agriculture for some time.