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The ALR-or Agricultural Land Reserve-is one of the most precious things we as citizens of this province own.This article in the Delta Optimist describes how the Fraser River delta lands which are the most fertile and arable in Canada are being eroded by the Province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation, Transport Canada and the Vancouver Port Authority. For what? Wait for it-a truck staging area.  This seems like a rather strange use of Class 1 irreplaceable agricultural land given that there is plenty of space available in the Tsawwassen First Nations lands which have been already been loaded with sand and can no longer be used for agricultural purposes.

This parking lot will be located at Highway 17 and Deltaport Way and will alleviate “truck congestion as well as queuing and parking along Deltaport Way and the causeway.”  Built at a cost of 18 million dollars and leased to the port, this parking lot “would accommodate up to 140 trucks on the east side of Highway 17A and, to the west, a parking area for 40 early arrival trucks, a restroom and an inspection area for B.C. Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement. Only port-authorized trucks would be allowed to access the facility, which would have surveillance cameras monitored by port security.”

To make everyone feel better, the governments and the Port state that “initially” only four hectares or ten acres of farmland will be taken out of the Agricultural Reserve to accommodate 25,0000 square meters of asphalt. Road access for this truck waiting parking lot will also be over arable farmland that is privately owned, and that land is not included in the calculation. This is just the first slice out by the government and the Port, as more truck parking lots will be needed when the second phase of the Delta Port Expansion-which will take out essential migratory feeding grounds for the western sandpiper -is approved.

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It’s a bit hard to think what the problem  paving this arable land solves. Truck drivers have already done massive protests on the sides of the highways and certainly could line up there, perhaps even slowing traffic so that pedestrians can cross Highway 17 to the Tsawwassen Mills mall. You would think with advanced communications and technology that trucks could be told when to arrive at the port to pick up their load. Somehow taking Class 1 agricultural land from the ALR slice by slice for truck parking seems so 20th century. Let’s hope there is a rethink.

Removing this land from the ALR needs to be approved by the  Agricultural Land Commission, but the Province has indicated there is a “big announcement” soon.