Central Saanich council at a recent meeting. The District is being sued by the owners of Silver Rill Corn Ltd. over the alleged inaction of the municipality to adequately address flooding at Maber Flats. (File)

Central Saanich faces civil claim over Maber Flats flooding

Owners of Silver Rill Corn allege loss of farmland due to District policies, lack of remediation

Kenneth and Wendy Fox, owners of Silver Rill Corn Ltd. have sued the District of Central Saanich over farmland they claim has become difficult to farm as a result of land use decisions that have caused flooding.

In a civil claim, registered in B.C. Supreme Court on July 14, 2017, the plaintiffs allege the District of Central Saanich’s ongoing allowance of residential and commercial development, in the Maber Flats area in particular, has led to increased flooding. They claim the District’s failure to “implement effective drainage systems” has rendered 10 acres of their farmland “unfarmable.”

The District of Central Saanich, according to B.C. Court Services, has not yet filed a response to the claim.

The plaintiffs state they successfully farmed 22 acres between 1991 and 2007 – the point at which increased flooding and insufficient drainage, particularly to 10 acres of their property within the Maber Flats area.

The claim details a series of reports started by the District in around 1994, with respect to flooding and drainage issues at Maber Flats – and only commenced to implement drainage systems in 2014, “in an effort to effectively deal with, and lessen the effects of the increased flooding …”

“To date, the District has failed to satisfactorily complete the implementation of drainage or other systems,” the statement reads, in part.

The owners of Silver Rill Corn say this has prevented them from farming the land and reduced its value, despite their own efforts to pump out the water.

In their notice of claim, the plaintiffs are seeking damages for loss of land value and enjoyment of the property. They are calling for an injunction that would force Central Saanich to implement the drainage systems necessary to reduce flooding on those lands “to a level in which the plaintiffs are able to farm those 22 acres …”

The District held an open house in September of 2016 to detail their drainage plans for Maber Flats. At that time, Clayton Fox, who is related to the owners of Silver Rill Corn Ltd., said he’s happy to see it moving forward as they haven’t been able to use their land effectively for years.

“It’s a 22 acre piece over there, so it’s the most affected piece to this project,” he said at the time, adding there’s an increasing amount of water entering the area, so the water table is too high to farm well.

“It just keeps getting worse … because of new development in the area and more run-off water and things like that, so it’s pretty much been like a stagnant piece of land for us for six or seven years. We haven’t even been able to plant on it so it forces us to lease other areas.”

The District has contracted Aqua-Text Scientific Consulting Ltd. to pull together background information and collect any historical information they can about the site. Aqua-Tex is also trying to consult with people about current uses and the wish list of what people want to see there.

“And then our job is to try and integrate that with the zoning requirements, the agricultural land commission requirements and the District’s requirements,” said Project Manager Cori Barraclough.

The plan has received mixed reviews from farmers in the community.

Larry Sluggett, who is on the Peninsula and Area Agricultural Commission (PAAC), has concerns primarily about the benefits of the District’s Maber Flats project and whether there really are any.

“The plan is to build a 20 or 25 acre lake to gather water,” he told the PNR in 2016. “The farming community feels that they don’t have enough information to justify it.”

No cost estimate has been provided yet for the District’s Maber Flats plan.

In a Saanich Peninsula mayors’ address in March, Central Saanich Councillor Naill Paltiel pointed to plans to work toward implementing the Maber Flats plan in 2017.

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