The Agricultural Land Commission has added its voice to that of Pitt Meadows City Council and many residents who oppose the proposed expansion of the CP Rail Vancouver Intermodal Facility in Pitt Meadows.
CP is proposing a new logistics park on 100 acres of what the ALC called prime agricultural land. This would include an agricultural hub where food products will be received by rail and loaded into shipping containers for export, an auto compound for vehicles bound for BC distributors, and a liquid energy transload for ethanol and transportation fuels.
“The commission… does not believe the utilization of ALR for locating the CP Logistics Park is “reasonable” when the impacts to the ALR and the scarcity of agricultural land in B.C. and the nation is given due consideration,” said a letter signed by ALC chair Jennifer Dyson.
She noted less than three per cent of the province’s land base can raise crops, but it supports more than 17,500 farms and 55,000 workers, while generating an output of $8.5 billion.
“The Lower Mainland region of B.C., where Pitt Meadows is located, accounted for close to 75 per cent of this value. This is double the agricultural contribution that the Niagara Region of Ontario provides to the economy. Without a doubt, the value of the Lower Mainland of BC’s agricultural sector is nationally significant,” she said.
She also said CP appears to favour developing farmland.
“The fact that farmland is protected by the ALR should not make it more attractive to development. However, CP’s own comparative analysis indicates it does. Land in the ALR is relatively flat, unencumbered, easy to develop, and cheaper than urban sites. In the commission’s opinion this is not a reasonable analysis. The permanent loss of these unique and irreplaceable farmlands is inconsistent with longstanding provincial priorities of farmland preservation. Once these agriculturally capable soils are paved over, they are gone forever and cannot be replaced.”
Dyson also cited the risk of increased flooding on adjacent farms, and increased truck traffic in farm country caused by the CP expansion.
“The mandate of the ALC is focused on the long-term need to preserve land for agriculture and mitigating damage to fertile and arable soils, while encouraging governments to plan smarter to protect and promote farmland and farming for future generations.”
The commission is copying comments to the Federal Minister of Transportation for inclusion into process for review by the Canada Transportation Agency.
Although the ALC has a virtual veto on any building or development on protected farmland in the province, it does not have authority to stop the federal agency from pursuing its plans.
The entire letter is on the City of Pitt Meadows website.
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