Agricultural benefit of Central Saanich’s Maber Flats project questioned

Jack Mar and Bob Maxwell asked mayor and council to conduct a technical review of the Maber Flats project in light of the land issues.

Central Saanich is still developing plans for its multi-million dollar water retention facility on land known as Maber Flats.

The Peninsula Area Agricultural Commission (PAAC) is very concerned about the agricultural benefits — or lack thereof — of the Maber Flats Project.

Member Larry Sluggett spoke about what the commission feels on the project.

“This project is based largely on a report done by Darrell Zbeetnoff, who’s an agricultural consultant, who did a report for Central Saanich council several years ago,” said Sluggett at Central Saanich’s Sept. 5 regular council meeting.

The report, he referenced, identified the flood plain for Maber Flats is about 308 acres. The data that he used was very dated, Sluggett asserted, as it was done in the 1980s. He added the consultant’s project wasn’t funded sufficiently to do any groundwork.

Of that 308 acres, Sluggett said about a third of it has already been eliminated from the 200 year flood plain. An example, he said, is the polo field, which is about 20 acres and has been raised up about six feet. He said another 15 acres of it is in the Stelly’s Secondary School land area, which also has been raised up. Another 20 acres on the east boundary of Maber Flats has also altered.

Around four months ago, PAAC formed a sub committee to investigate. A five page report was later submitted to mayor and council. Sluggett said PAAC has never had a response and there has been no discussion, adding he finds that disappointing.

Co-directors of PAAC, Jack Mar and Bob Maxwell asked mayor and council a few weeks ago to conduct a technical review of the Maber Flats project in light of the land issues.

Sluggett added they had asked it be done before the project goes any further.

“There’s many questions about the basic assumptions of what the agricultural benefits are,” Sluggett said.

He added the commission wants a halt on the project and a review. He said it’s about putting emphasis on the technical issues that have been identified by the committee.

Councillor Zeb King said there would be significant costs to the District by putting a halt on the project.

“We’ve gone already down the road to some degree so I think there would be a real hesitancy to do that,” he said.

Coun. Bob Thompson said it would be useful for the consultants to meet with members of PAAC following the Maber Flats open house on Sept. 17.

“I know that for a long time they have been, to put it kindly, uncertain about this project so I think it would be worthwhile for the consultant, following the open house, to meet with members of PAAC to certainly review their concerns and look at the need for perhaps a more detailed workshop,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s motion was passed, and consultants will meet with members of PAAC prior to the half-way mark of the project.