In the heart of Cowichan Bay, amidst the lush farmland and tranquil landscapes, a storm of controversy was brewing. Whispers and rumours swept through the community like wildfire, all centred on the contentious flooding of 70 hectares of precious farmland. As the community watched, a cadre of self-proclaimed “journalists” emerged, eager to serve as the arbiters of truth. But, in their quest for answers, they found themselves knocking on the door of the very source responsible for the flooding, akin to entrusting a wolf with the care of the henhouse. In so doing, their naivety led them to be swayed to side with Multi-million dollar NGOs and the government instead of their fellow residents and local farmers.
Among these curious minds, Westward Independent stood out, steadfast in its commitment to uncovering the hidden facets of this unfolding saga. Through a network of invaluable connections, they delved into a shadowy nexus of dealings between the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), multiple ministries, Ducks Unlimited, and the Nature Trust.
The turmoil erupted in June when a sudden public media release catapulted a contentious issue into the limelight, sending shockwaves through residents near and far. The announcement declared the impending submersion of 70 hectares of vital farmland in Cowichan Bay Estuary, purportedly to counteract the rising sea levels, establish a carbon capture initiative, and vaguely reference benefits to salmon.* A tempest of questions swept through the community: How could such a monumental decision be made without consulting those directly affected? Who authorized this audacious undertaking? Amidst this climate of uncertainty, a rigorous investigation unfolded. Freedom of Information requests were swiftly submitted, legal experts were enlisted, and out of this turmoil, the grassroots organization known as Land Keepers emerged.
As time moved on, a cascade of revelations started to emerge, many of them deeply unsettling. It came to light that even the Area Directors, including the one from Cowichan Bay, had been kept in the dark about the impending farmland submersion. Then, a member of the original farm’s family stepped forward, shedding light on the property’s sale to Nature Trust and Ducks Unlimited.
The son of the Dinsdale farm’s original owners recounted a poignant tale of hardship. When his father passed away, his mother was left burdened with numerous cattle, a vast farm, and the responsibility of caring for their children. As the farm’s dikes deteriorated, this would cause flooding of the farm with sea water(salt water) destroying the farm forever; she sought the province’s aid in repairing them. Shockingly, the province refused and insisted that the Dinsdale’s foot the entire bill. Serendipitously, the Dinsdale’s had a familial connection to the Province’s head of dikes, who deemed the demand absurd. Eventually, the province agreed to cover two-thirds of the repair costs, but by then, the single mother couldn’t muster the remaining third.
Photo: WWIND file photo – Dinsdale Farm (Cowichan Bay Estuary)
Faced with dire circumstances, the dike people and province suggested that if the Dinsdale turn over this land they would fix the dikes. The family reluctantly decided to turn over these very productive farm fields next to Westcan Road access to the Westcan Docks in Cowichan Bay to the BC Provincial Government in lieu of paying for the one-third of the cost of dikes to be repaired on the existing 70 hectares of farmland known as the Dinsdale Farm. Westward Independent obtained a crucial addendum attached to the sale contract, which stated that the purchaser guaranteed the existing dyke system’s integrity for 50 years, beginning in 1990, and pledged not to allow any uncontrolled flooding that would harm adjacent properties.
“1. The purchaser warrants that the existing dyking scheme around the perimeter of the property will not be materially altered or breached to allow uncontrolled flooding of the lands. This warranty to remain in effect for the term of 50 years commencing December 15, 1990 and running until December 15, 2040”
“3. The Purchaser accepts the responsibility to take all necessary precautions concerning the existing dyking scheme – not to allow any flooding that will be liable cause any damage or will interfere with the enjoyment of any adjacent property and in particular the property of the Vendor. The purchaser acknowledges that any saltwater flooding will destroy the land for agricultural use.”
The Agricultural Land Commission was roped into the inquiry. When asked if an application had been submitted to flood the farmland, the Chief Executive Officer responded with an email indicating that a consultant for Nature Trust had inquired about the process, but no such application had been submitted.
The story grew more tangled as Freedom of Information Requests languished unanswered, except for one from North Cowichan, which initially disavowed any involvement in the decision. Later, it came to light that North Cowichan was indeed part of the decision through a connected vote. Even long-serving councillors professed ignorance when questioned about their knowledge of the decision, leaving this aspect of the story shrouded in mystery.
A summary report shows that once NTBC & Duck Unlimited bought the property from Ann Dinsdale, they then leased it to the B.C. Government for 99 years with all the conditions of the sale and summary report, that state the farm is to be a farm until 2040, along with the maintenance of the dikes and to preserve trees and wildflowers.
Numerous questions lingered unanswered in the wake of this controversy. Would the saltwater flooding impact nearby wells? Who were the key figures behind Nature Trust’s momentous decision? Will the flood zone of nearby properties increase? And why had there been such a glaring lack of public consultation?
The story was far from over, and Westward Independent pledged to continue its investigative journey. Stay tuned for updates on our website, coap.ca, and in future editions of the newspaper as this highly controversial tale continues to unfurl, revealing its enigmatic layers.