News Views: Some explaining to do

Neighbours along the North Alouette River are upset at a farmer for allowing trucks to dump fill from construction sites on agricultural land.

The Agricultural Land Commission says Hang Cho, who owns the two fill properties at the north end of 224th Street, is doing nothing wrong.

The District of Maple Ridge also says he is doing nothing wrong, although it is monitoring the properties as Mr. Cho was previously told he would need a permit and pay a fee to work within the district’s 30-metre stream setback requirement.

The fill is now getting close to that range, although the neighbours claim it has already compromised that. They also worry damage is being done to the river and habitat. They also maintain that building roads and berms does not improve the farmland, but undermines its use for growing food.

Mr. Cho, by the way, has listed the properties for sale online for $1.2 million – 10.45 acres with  “potential for a development in a prime location.”

Of more concern to the neighbours, however, is the Alouette valley’s history of flooding. They fear that by allowing Mr. Cho to raise the level of his low-lying properties, water will be diverted and flood their properties during extreme rainy periods.

A hydrology study of the Alouette rivers that took three years to complete and was recently presented to council recognizes that “raising or infilling of land” displaces water and relocates the flooding problem to other properties.

The study recommended the district consider a flood management strategy to ensure new or upgraded flood protection structures do no adversely affect the overall flood hazard.

What will happen to water now when it runs off Mr. Cho’s properties?

A district report from 2009 raised the same flooding concerns the neighbours are expressing now and said qualified professionals would have to review any plans to ensure any regrading doesn’t affect safety or other neighbours. It also said the district would  have to ensure any soil deposits don’t increase flooding danger to neighbouring properties.

This should have been determined before all the fill was allowed to be dumped there, especially given the area’s history.

Mr. Cho may be playing by the rules, but the district’s lack of concern and leniency here, especially given what its own hydrology study suggests, is puzzling, to say the least.

Someone has some explaining to do.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News