Flooding issues continue to affect farmland along Lougheed Highway.
A delegation of Silverdale farmers spoke to Mission council on April 6 regarding rainwater drainage problems and the negative impact it’s having on their agricultural output.
“The water has been a huge issue for us,” said Ken Vandenburght, one of the farmers. “From Chester Street west, (the ditching) goes super wide and then it just narrows down to like one-foot wide.”
They said the flooding has worsened since the widening of the highway was finished in June 2020. They are not the first farmers in the area to make this claim.
Vandenburght, who rents his land across the road from Chester Street, said he’s lost an entire field to the flooding. He said even if something is done immediately, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to salvage any crop this season.
Apart from the ditching issues, beaver dams, siltation, and fallen trees are backing up the drainage and causing the water levels to rise, the farmers said.
Steve Wynnyk, another farmer, said he lost at least 10 acres of corn after the drainage pump along Cooper Avenue broke down last summer and the temporary replacement pump couldn’t keep up. It ended up costing him over $13,000 worth of crop, he said.
“My neighbour there has a tremendous loss, more than I have,” Wynnyk said. “When they improved the highway, they didn’t do any mitigation to the drainage to the pump house.”
Municipal public works department staff said they’ve known about the issue for more than a year, but the drainage maintenance is the responsibility of the province and CP Rail, the latter of which owns the property on the south side of the highway, where the beaver live.
“We can’t go in there and dig with our excavators because it’s not our property,” said Paul Algra, assistant operations manager of the department, adding all they can do is push the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).
“(CP Rail) just state that the water’s not really affecting their tracks, so they’re not really going to worry about it too much.”
He said that communication with the ministry has been difficult, as there has been a turnover of staff there, but they have been assured the drainage issues are being addressed.
“I‘ve been trying to seal down a timeline for exactly when they’re coming, but they’re not getting back to us so quickly.”
Algra said that he’s been informed that CP Rail started removing the beaver dams and trapping the beavers on the south side of highway two weeks ago, adding three of the dam-builders have already been caught.
MOTI has said they will ditch both the north and south sides of the highway after CP Rail has finished clearing the dams, and will work on siltation removal with the company afterwards, according to Algra.
He said when the highway was being built, they had a “bit of a battle” to get MOTI to dig out the silt to the original 80-year floodplain. They opted to only dig it out to the “first section in front of Chester.”
Both farmers said they depend on growing feed on their fields for cattle, and would be willing to work on the problem themselves if they were given the green light.
“We produce food, you know, that’s our livelihood,” Wynnyk said. “I produce about 700 to 800 fat cattle a year. I got to grow feed for them. The more crop I can grow, the more pounds of beef I can put on at the end of the year.”