It’s an ideal candidate for a government funded infrastructure project.
The Delta Farmers’ Institute is saying that about getting much needed funding for irrigation improvements to Westham Island.
In a recent letter to federal Minster of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna, DFI president Peter Guichon said that for the last several years they have been working with the City of Delta on a proposed project for the 2,250-acre island which has the most fertile farmland in Canada.
Noting the lack of a reliable source of irrigation water is a key challenge, Guichon said their proposed infrastructure plan is closely aligned with food security and climate change.
“We are at a stage where we are shovel ready to move forward with implementation of the project, although we still require additional funding, therefore we are asking for a contribution from the Government of Canada for approximately $5 million (equal to about 50 per cent of the capital cost of the project).
Guichon noted they’re adding their voice to the call from Perrin Beatty, chief executive with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, for the federal government to consider infrastructure spending in terms of providing “a major role in the next phase of our country’s recovery.”
Listing economic and environmental benefits in the DFI’s submission, Guichon noted, “The community has been working on a funding strategy which would include community driven resources plus outside funding. Contributions of funds from the community looks promising, although an additional $4 million to $5 million needs to be secured.”
The DFI notes COVID-19 has brought heightened attention to the importance of local food security
The DFI’s submission also pointed out that a recent study supported by the B.C. Climate Action Plan analyzed the impacts of climate change and its effect on rising ocean levels and increases in salt water intrusions, which ultimately negatively impacts the suitability of river water surrounding Westham Island.
“Salt buildup in the soil is a major problem. This could be solved with the spring flushing of ditches by the new irrigation system. This study confirmed that the present and future shortage of irrigation water is a key factor undermining the ability of farmers on Westham Island to meet the growing need for locally produced food products and to respond to the public’s growing concern about food security.”
Noting the overall cost of the proposed irrigation system is between $9 and $10 million, Guichon said that with a reliable water source for irrigation, farmers would be able to increase yields by 25 to 50 per cent with their existing cropping pattern.
As far as current projects, Delta engineering director Steven Land told the Optimist the city has a budget allocated to undertake a preliminary design study for irrigation improvements that would involve a pump station to bring water from Mason Canal to Westham Island and that the design will establish the anticipated budget for the future work.