Long-time Westminster Highway farmers George Fong and Fred VanDyk are expecting a wet spring.
The prediction, they feel, is pretty iron-clad, not because they have checked the venerable Farmer's Almanac or Environment Canada for weather projections.
All they have to do is look at what their neighbour has done to raise the level of their property with what they claim is demolition debris and ground up asphalt - materials prohibited from being dumped on farmland.
The change in elevation - a good four to five feet in some places - causes flooding on Fong and VanDyk's properties just east of No. 6 Road, something that puts Fong back about three months of growing time in spring.
"That's worth about $10,000 to me," said Fong who grows Chinese greens on the five-acre plot he has farmed since 1976.
Moreover, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) ordered a work stoppage on the land in April 2012 because the material dumped was deemed prohibitive. Fong and VanDyk believe that order is being ignored.
On the other side of the raised property, VanDyk, 87, has long-since retired from farming, but has other farmers raise and cut hay crops on his land. However, with the added moisture - run-off from his neighbour - that's getting harder to do.
"Instead of grass back there I am growing bullrushes," said VanDyk who used to own the adjacent land but sold it when he retired.
Since then, it has changed hands three times and is now listed as belonging to Guvinder Singh Aujla.
Valvir Aujla told the Richmond News in a telephone interview his son, Guvinder, plans to build a 17,000-square-foot home on the land and the work being done was in preparation for that project.
Plus, he wants to install a commercial greenhouse sprawling over an acre at the rear of the property.
When asked about the ALC's stop work order and recent activity on the site, the senior Aujla said asphalt grindings were trucked to the property and unloaded last week in order to construct a "clean" area at the entranceway to park vehicles and equipment, and limit the amount of mud being carted off the land and onto the roadway.
Aujla said the allegations that anything other than soil previously being dumped on the land to raise it up are false, and that his neighbours' flooding problems are the result of poor drainage on their property, not the work done on his son's farmland.
The situation has left a local farm protection group asking the city to go forward with a proposal to hire additional city staff to act as "soil cops" to investigate illegal farm dumping on behalf of the ALC which has just two field officers to police the entire province.
"I think if the city had the manpower on the ground, landowners would definitely think twice about doing this kind of thing," said Ray Galawan of Farmwatch BC, which started the ball rolling on the matter after setting up a vigil at the entrance to a Finn Road farm earlier this year where illegal dumping was alleged.
Two weeks ago, city councillors sent its plan for city-based inspectors back to staff for further study, citing concerns over the cost - around $230,000 a year.
But if it's just dollars holding the city back from getting city staff boots on the ground to do inspections, maybe the local agricultural community could help, Galawan said.
Divided among the number of farm owners locally, it would be money well spent, he said.
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