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NEWS: Concerns raised about loss of farmland for Deltaport expansion

Yesterday morning, the Vancouver Sun reported, “The battle to save Metro Vancouver’s agricultural land is heating up, with regional officials pushing back at the potential loss of 600 acres of prime south Delta farmland for port expansion. Directors at Metro’s environment committee Wednesday agreed unanimously to have staff investigate an option-to-purchase agreement for the active farmland, which is now in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but is tagged for a logistics and rail yard for the province’s Gateway Project. Metro directors argued Wednesday that the 11 parcels of farmland, between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way are protected by the ALR, are not zoned for industrial use, and are earmarked as green space in Metro’s Regional Growth Strategy.”

“Documents show Lamington Heights Investments, a warehouse distribution business associated with the Emerson Real Estate Group, is behind the optioning deal in the south Delta farmlands. Ron Emerson, president of the group, which specializes in confidential industrial land acquisitions, confirmed he signed the agreements with five large-scale farmers, most of whom are growing blueberries, with some producing root vegetables. The land abuts the Tsawwassen First Nation land that is now slated for industrial and commercial development. It also sits next to land bought in 2009 by BC Rail under its mandate to acquire port-related land. …South Delta Independent MLA Vicki Huntington, who unearthed the documents, said there’s no doubt the plans would increase port capacity and efficiency, but ‘this is the wrong place and the wrong land’.”

“The opposition voiced by Metro directors Wednesday may well be at odds with the province’s plans to expand port operations in Delta and increase road and transportation routes for goods. …Directors argue the regional district has already lost thousands of acres of farmland to senior government developments such as the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty settlement and the provincial government’s Gateway Project, which includes the four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road – a 40-kilometre transportation route that would run along the south side of the Fraser River from Highway 1, around Port Kells in Surrey to Deltaport Way in South Delta.”

“The move comes as Metro Vancouver is trying to come up with 240,000 acres of class one, irrigated farmland to grow food for the region’s residents by 2025. An inventory conducted on Delta’s farmland found there were 2,868 acres in the corporation that are agricultural, but aren’t being actively farmed.”

The Council of Canadians
Yesterday afternoon, we issued a media release that stated, “Citing land shortages for the gateway project the Emerson Real Estate Group has optioned 600 acres of agricultural land to develop for use as a rail and industrial area. The Council of Canadians joins with local residents to oppose the potential loss of agricultural land, the port expansion and a proposed free trade zone. …This 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. …(Chapter activist Cathy Wilander says), ‘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.’ …(Council of Canadians executive director Garry Neil adds), ‘The campaign by our local activists to stop the destruction of farmland and critical western flyway habitat around the Fraser delta will have the full support of the Council of Canadians…'”

In opposition to the related South Fraser Perimeter Reoad, Council of Canadians chapters unfurled a massive ‘climate action now’ banner in April 2010, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=3001; held a ‘dig in’ protest in October 2010, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4238; had a protest with two-hundred sand bags to block the front doors of a building where then-premier Gordon Campbell was believed to be meeting in December 2010, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4926; organized a mass direct action/ two-week long occupation of the highway construction site beginning in April 2011, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6598; and much more.