A Mission farmer says faulty ditching along a recently-completed expansion of Lougheed Highway has caused his farm to flood, costing him thousands.
Ryan Gemser, who has been renting the farmland along Chester Street for 15 years, said up to 80 per cent of his 18-acre field is unusable due to the flooding.
He said his last two seasons growing orchard grass on the field have been a wash.
“Last year was a complete write off, and next year is going to be a complete write off,” Gemser said. “We’re looking at two years of no feed off there because it’s underwater. Now, after what we replanted, it’s all going to die.”
The $41.5-million project to widen 3.6 kilometres of Highway 7 from two lanes to four began in May, 2018, and was completed by the end of July in 2020. Its goal was to ease congestion for approximately 20,000 drivers who travel by that section of the highway daily and included other upgrades, such as upsized ditches and drainage culverts.
Since work began, Gemser said two farm properties along the highway have had significant flooding, with his being the worst affected.
It’s occurring because around 100 feet of new ditches are too narrow, and constricting the north-south flow of water after heavy downpours, according to Gemser.
Gemser said he’s made a complaint to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, but has not been provided a real update and no one has been out to examine it, despite his continuing inquiries.
A ministry spokesperson said Chester Creek flows through the property and flooding has been a “long-standing issue,” existing prior to the expansion of Highway 7. They said it’s the District of Mission’s jurisdiction.
“There are several factors being explored including an existing pump station and a culvert at Chester Street within the jurisdiction of the District of Mission,” the spokesperson said.
Within the highway project’s boundaries, the ministry said they have upsized the ditches and culverts, as well as made improvements to the riparian area within the ditches to retain more water with increased vegetation.
Gemser said he has spoken recently with the other property owner affected by the flooding, who told him they had “never seen it this bad.”
District Chief Administration Officer Mike Younie said the field has been subject to flooding during rainy periods for decades, but isn’t sure whether the highway widening plays any role in the recent flooding.
There are beaver dams in Chester Creek between the railway and highway that sometimes back water up into the field, according to Younie, adding if those dams are within the highway’s right of way, they are the ministry’s responsibility.
Gemser said the beaver dams were a problem, but they have been cleared, and the new dikes are a significantly worse issue.
He said both parties, the ministry and the district, have said the other is responsible, and added that finding agricultural land to rent elsewhere is extremely difficult, and not an option for him.
“We’re paying $800 an acre [a month] to rent it, and that money goes down the drain every year,” Gemser said. “It’s good for the ducks, I guess.”