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Industrial plan long in works

It's always been in the works, it's just taken 50 years to get to this point.

It's always been in the works, it's just taken 50 years to get to this point.

When Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington announced last week that an industrial consortium has options on more than 550 acres of Delta farmland it was revealing, but not necessarily surprising.

The idea that port-related industry covets the fine food-producing land of west Delta dates back to the 1960s when planning was underway for what was then known as the Roberts Bank superport.

In fact, in the late '60s the provincial government of the day expropriated more than 4,000 acres, farmland that was to be converted into a wide range of uses to support the port.

Through the first 25 years or so of its existence, the port served solely as a coal handling facility, negating the need for much upland support and prompting calls for the expropriated land to be returned.

Much of the acreage was eventually sold back to local farmers in the late 1990s, although some of it was retained to satisfy subsequent treaty negotiations with the Tsawwassen First Nation.

I had long assumed the numbers had been crunched and that a chunk of the land deeded to the TFN would ultimately become home to that upland industry identified long ago. It made sense that it would be a lot easier sell to the public on turning prime farmland into a portfocused logistics centre if it was being done in the name of First Nations economic development.

However, it's now apparent the land the TFN owns, or at least is willing to devote to industrial purposes, isn't sufficient to meet the needs of a burgeoning container port, necessitating the options now in place.

It's bizarre that Victoria held on to the expropriated properties for 30 years, then just after the Deltaport container terminal opened, the facility that would actually require upland support, it sold many of those parcels back to the farmers that previously held the titles.

You'd think the province would have retained the acreage it required for Deltaport given it was evident as early as the 1960s that some sort of land mass was going to be necessary, but for whatever shortsighted reason that didn't transpire. As a result, we're in a position today where speculators have got their eyes fixed on farmland with thoughts of growing something other than potatoes and blueberries.

It's been a bit of a convoluted road, but it looks like we just might end up at the place that planners envisioned a half century ago.