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Inland port to spare farmland

Inland port to spare farmland

Originally published in the Delta Optimist

You can’t fault them for trying. It looks like it’s a longshot, but municipal politicians and bureaucrats here in Delta haven’t given up on the notion of an inland port. They continue to put together a business case, and certainly have a willing partner in Ashcroft, but it’s the folks from Port Metro Vancouver they ultimately have to convince if this is going to become anything more than a noble idea.

Given our strategic location in this country, and the enormous focus our governments are putting on the Asia-Pacific gateway, the pressure on our waterfront, as well as on our upland areas, won’t abate anytime soon. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Terminal 2, a second three-berth container terminal currently being proposed for Roberts Bank, isn’t the last mega project eyed for our shores.

Recognizing the immense impact a major port could have on the adjacent land base, civic officials are doing what they can to spare the prime farmland of west Delta by advocating for the expansion of the Ashcroft Terminal in the B.C. Interior.

It’s going to be an uphill battle based on the cool reception the idea has received thus far from Port Metro Vancouver, but given what could be coming down the pike in these parts it’s certainly worth a try.

A half-century ago the provincial government expropriated more than 4,000 acres that became known as the Roberts Bank back-up lands, which were supposed to provide on-shore support for port development. With only a coal terminal, an operation that didn’t need such back-up, in place during the first 25 years of the superport’s existence, much of the expropriated land was eventually sold back to the former owners or used in treaty negotiations with the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Today, however, with one container port going full steam and a second in the works, that requirement for upland support envisioned all those years ago is really starting to intensify. The more that’s built offshore, the more we’ll need rail yards, logistics centres, container storage and other facilities on upland sites, which will not only gobble up chunks of valuable farmland, but chip away at the critical land mass required to sustain Delta’s agricultural industry.

Ashcroft could provide an alternative.

Delta deserves kudos for exploring that possibility and, given what this community endures on a daily basis, the least port officials could do is give it serious consideration.