The never ending saga of the McCallum ditch

Two philosophies on water creating conflict for Agassiz

I have been living in this community for 40 years and the upper reaches of the McCallum ditch crosses my property.

For years I have been an elected member of the ditching committee and have served as recording secretary. I am therefore quite familiar with the ongoing drainage problems that affect many local property owners, since together with the late Walter Hatt, who used to be the Chairman of the drainage commission, I used to make yearly inspections of the entire drainage system.

There are historical facts to be considered. In 1895, a very, very long time before outside organizations started to interfere, the Dominion Experimental Farm approached the District of Kent with the aim to connect their land in the back of the farm near Green Mountain to a district wide drainage system.

The result was the creation of the McCallum ditch (emphasize ditch not stream) that wound its way along Harrison Hot Springs Road and all the way west to the foot of Woodside Mountain.

Naturally all land owners within the drainage area, not just the adjoining ones, are very interested in keeping the water levels as low as possible in order to facilitate proper drainage of their properties. Prolonged water on fields does not enhance plant growth for farming.

Outside interest groups however desire to have a water level of at least 70 cm year around and convert the drainage channels to streams for their environmental and ideological purposes.

We have therefore two deep-rooted philosophies, no water versus water. This creates a nasty conflict, as farmers and landowners feel threatened fore their farm existence.

The whole flooding problems could however easily be solved by dredging the lower western area behind some barn to eliminate the problem spots. Moving water creates oxygen rich water, which will benefit fish and all aquatic wildlife.

(The water levels in the lower end are up to 1.9m difference from the effected land to the pump.)

It must be recognized, that in the last 120 years the district has grown substantially. The runoff from housing, paved roads and parking lots and especially the prisons have increased the water flow dramatically and instantly.

According to a report of the engineering firm Willis, Cunliff, Tait Co. on Oct. 26, 1978, the prisons with their run off contribute more then 30 per cent of the ditch’s capacity. It appears, more and more development is planned with a total disregard to the runoff water affecting property owners downstream. For reasons hard to understand, the district and its staff entirely fail to recognize the obvious problem and if they do it is at best lip service.

Outside groups, not financially affected by loss of income due to flooding, but who are supported lavishly by government grants, play a sinister game.

To my knowledge, the Ministry of Highways paid over $20,000 for so called damages made to install a roadside pipe a short distance along Hwy 7 and 9. A roadside ditch that most of the year is completely dry.

There is an easy remedy. Stop the frivolous handouts of grants for self serving pet projects, and instead assist affected property owners vigorously with proper maintenance of drainage ditches including cutting of grass and eliminating blackberries.

The present reluctance of establishing proper ditch maintenance, by properly removing the weeds and debris is a misguided effort to have a riparian zone established.

I believe in the environment, but I realize now, that the many trees I voluntarily planted on my own property, to shade out drainage ditches and enhance the environment may now never be removed without explicit permission from the ministry of environment because of the dictatorial establishment of a riparian buffer.

“Put the money where it helps the environment but not here,” the late Dr. Tom Northcote (former professor at UBC) quoted when we inspected the area.

Tony Stoeckly

 

 

 

 

 

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