Canada’s Largest First Nations newspaper and the Midhurst sprawl plan’s “junk science”.

June 20, 2017

Ontario continues to encourage Simcoe County as the “wild west of development/sprawl”.

Free download here.

First Nations Drum
April 1, 2017

 

Ontario Planner Struggles to Save Huron-Wyandot Homeland

By Dr. John Bacher (PhD) & Danny Beaton (Mohawk, Turtle Clan)

Opinion

The Turtle Island region of Huronia – otherwise known by its archaic colonial name of Simcoe County – is under environmental assault by urban sprawl. A blockade to stop Dump Site 41, the occupation of Springwater Provincial Park, and sacred water walks along the shores of Lake Simcoe are tactics being used to rescue the traditional territories of the Huron-Wyandot.

Victor Doyle is a senior planner with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, (OMMAH) and is inspired by the earth-respecting spiritual actions of various Ojibway communities and their many Mohawks allies. Doyle has been with OMMAH for three decades and is at the epicenter of ongoing battles to protect this sacred land with his fighting for provincially-directed land use planning to rescue wildlife, farms, forests and water from human greed.

Doyle’s most avid opponents are twofold – corporations, and the powerful minions of developers who run Simcoe County (politicians). Doyle’s determination to stand up against their pressure has earned him their enmity. One such politician is former Mayor Doug White of West Gwillimbury, who as far back as 2010 dismissed Doyle’s defense of Ontario’s land use policies as the mere rantings of “one unelected provincial bureaucrat.”

Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, The Narrows, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

Chief Planner of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, has made Doyle the public voice on the issue, commanding media attention on the research of agronomists, foresters, conservation biologists, land use planners, hydrologists and municipally-controlled conservation authorities. Though no official title accompanies Doyle’s point-man position, his stature and prominence should be effective in forestalling or preventing further encroachment.

Two brave conservationists, Wayne Wilson and Patti Young, are no longer with the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority due to their opposition to urban sprawl from the booming City of Barrie spilling over into its watershed and into the community of Midhurst in Springwater Township. In 2014, both Wilson and Young departed under the guise of an NVCA “efficiency audit.” Young vacated her position first with Wilson following suit.

While such relatively obscure figures cannot get the media’s attention, Doyle’s warnings about violations of provincial land use policy ravaging Huronia have been published in two of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. Doyle’s first warnings about Huronia appeared in the December 12, 2009 edition of the Toronto Star. The newspaper characterized his warnings as “a damming memo from Ontario’s senior planner” that paints “a stark picture of unsustainable sprawl, congestion and skyrocketing infrastructure costs if the province proceeds with a controversial strategy to urbanize large swaths of Simcoe County north of the Greenbelt.”

Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, Tudhope Park, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

When penning his 2009 warnings, Doyle worried about schemes promoted by corporations to turn the small hamlet of Bond Head, a village of 500 people served by septic tanks, into a city of 114,000 persons. This threat still endures, although now in a more modest scale of a 30,000 hectare proposal. A new danger emerging is the construction of 10,000 housing units in Midhurst. The biggest problem posed by this development is the polluted runoff spilling into Willow Creek, which is a major source of water flowing into the Minesing Wetlands. The wetlands are an important refuge for rare, endangered and ecologically significant wildlife including the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, Sturgeon, Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan, Sandhill Crane, Blue Winged Warbler, and various turtles.

As Doyle took to writing his second citizen report this spring, Ontario’s land use planning system’s “Co-ordinated Review” appeared to be on the brink of collapse. A freeze on urban boundary expansions – a key principle of both the Greenbelt and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan – was under attack by media, developers and municipalities.

The Toronto Globe and Mail provided a link to Doyle’s full 27 page report titled “The Growth Plan and the Greenbelt Plan: Settling the Record Straight” where he vigorously defends urban boundaries. This led to a modest expansion of the Greenbelt on urban river valleys and on grape and fruit tree growing lands in Grimsby. While “Setting the Record Straight” saved the Greenbelt, it has not yet rescued Huronia. The warnings in the report do show why Midhurst, Bond Head and all of its remaining rural land need the protection of the Greenbelt.

Nonsense used to justify the urbanization of Willow Creek, such as the claim urbanization does not harm streams, is junk science, and has been refuted by Doyle using data from the watershed report cards assembled by conservation authorities. Using a study by the Credit River Conservation Authority, Doyle demonstrates how surface water in urbanized areas is always rated, “Very Poor” or “Poor” and explains that damaged watersheds are without any native fish, turtles or frogs.

Doyle said the main threat posed to Minesing Wetlands wildlife refuge from urban sprawl is “the major issue of habitat loss, which, in turn, is the key loss of bio-diversity.” Doyle warns refusal to extend the Greenbelt into Simcoe County is causing a mass sale of farms purchased by land speculators. His report states, “development interests continue to be speculatively buying or securing huge land assemblies tens of thousands of acres beyond the green belt.” The speculation in Simcoe County has led to farmland to commonly sell for $54,000 dollars an acre. In contrast, in the better regulated Waterloo region, farmland cost $14,000 an acre.

Doyle’s report illustrates the necessity of the struggle to protect Huronia inside the Greenbelt – a struggle made more difficult by the hostility we received while walking around Lake Simcoe with Ojibway environmental leaders in the “Walk for the Water.” My experience includes a driver of an animal control vehicle angrily scowling at us for taking a rest near a bicycle trail.

Those in Huronia that care for the earth should not be treated with contempt, but with the honor given to one standing-up for the sake of the entire community and the life web supporting it. The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

Dr. Bacher and Elder Beaton continue on our Advisory Council.

Originally re-posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

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Sacred Farmland/Aquifers article: The Midhurst Secondary Plan = monstrous developers’ greed + ecocidal idiocy

June 3, 2017

Part 1 AND 2 of a devastating critique of this grotesque sprawl proposal in Simcoe County.

Danny Beaton John Bacher Niagara

An excellent summary published by the Springwater News (p. 6) of the lunacy of the Midhurst Secondary Plan: a desecration of Mother Earth and her creation. Click here for a free pdf download.

Sacred Farmland/Aquifers

Elder Danny Beaton and Dr. John Bacher

Few Canadians know or appreciate the watershed of Midhurst’s Willow Creek, which while marvelous in itself as a wildlife migration corridor and a template for wise ecological recovery, is even more important for its downstream outlet, the Minesing Wetlands. The Minesing Wetlands provides a sense of the beauty and sacredness of an environment guarded by native peoples since the retreat of glaciers over 10,000 years ago. This wonder, however, is now at risk from the massive urban sprawl blessed by the monstrosity called the Midhurst Secondary Plan. The Willow Creek watershed is on the eve of becoming the focal point for bitter battles over subdivision proposals at the Ontario Municipal Board. (OMB)

The Minesing Wetlands which Willow Creek feeds is Ontario’s Lost World. The famous fictional book and movie, which imagined explorers deep in the Amazon discovering giant species from a distant past, approximates the reality of this 6,000 hectare refuge for native species. It gives a glimpse of what Ontario was like before the ecocidal invasion of what is now our province by Euro-Canadians.

The word Minesing in Ojibway language means island. This illustrates how it is a haven for wildlife in a denuded and biologically sterile environment, at risk of being washed over by shock waves of urban sprawl unleashed by a storm of developers’ greed.

Minesing is the last home for entire ecological communities in Ontario, such as the Burr Oak and Hackberry swamp forests. Such ecosystems are a refuge for rare plants as the Beaked Spice-Bush and the Eastern Prairie and White Fingered Orchids. Minesing has southern Ontario’s largest Fen, providing refuge for the rare Least Bittern. Its large expanse of forest makes it a breeding home for the Threatened Cerulean Warbler. Careful documentation has found that 135 species of birds nest in the Minesing Wetlands.

The Minesing Wetlands provides nesting places for some of the most spectacular birds to be found in Ontario, such as the Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan and Sandhill Crane. The two heronies of this refuge are the oldest documented breeding grounds for the Great Blue Heron in Ontario. Minesing has a breeding colony for the threatened Black Tern. One of the biggest and most threatened fish in Ontario, the Lake Sturgeon, swims through the wetlands. While the Snapping and Painted Turtle are abundant here, it is also a refuge for threatened Wood, Map and Blanding’s Turtle. It is a staging post for the return of the river otter to southern Ontario. It mingles with another restored shaper of wetlands, the beaver, and the muskrat.

While the big birds, fish, reptiles and mammals of the Lost World of Minesing are impressive, the glory of the wildlife refuge is its being a haven for threatened insects. The wetland is so vast and formidable that it was never burnt out and subsequently farmed, like the ecologically restored, but originally once desertified landscape of Willow Creek around Midhurst. Now insects are threatened by agricultural pesticides. These are not used in a refuge which is controlled by public agencies and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Minesing is haven for the rare Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. It is the largest Butterfly that lives in Canada. It is most significant for being the only place in Canada where an Endangered Species, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly lives. It was thought to have been extirpated from Canada, but was discovered here in 2007 and listed as Threatened in 2012. It is also Endangered in the United States. The nearest population of this species is 180 kilometres away in Michigan.

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly endangered status in both the United States and Canada is illustrative of the idiocy of European colonization and exploitation. This did not take place through the rigours of contemporary environmental reviews. It survived in Minesing since the tough wetland was too difficult and wet to be burned away, like the surrounding source contributor of Willow Creek. Its forest were burned away for ashes to make soap. The species has quite exacting needs for its survival. These were only discovered in recent decades by scientists working to rescue the shining emerald green dragonfly from extinction.

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is what scientists in the last forty years have become to appreciate as a vernal pool obligate species. Vernal pools are specialized environments that dry up usually by August. They provide habitat for tree frog species, such as Wood and Spring Peeper Frogs, which in the early spring, turn Minesing into an astonishing symphony of musical calls. During the late summer when the pools usually dry up, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly survives by crawling into damp excavations made by crayfish.

The Willow Creek watershed that pours its flow into Minesing, had its population of Hine’s Emerald dragonfly wiped out by Euro-Canadian invaders. By 1900 most of the land here had been stripped of forests and degraded to marching sand dunes that threatened to bury Barrie, as they had done to an earlier seat of Simcoe County, Angus. However, through determined political leadership, guided by expert scientific advice. this was reversed. The lessons of history are now being ignored however. The watershed of Willow Creek, once buried by sand from burning trees, is now at risk of being covered
over by the cement of sprawl.

In October of 1905 the future Premier of Ontario, Ernest Drury, and the future Chief Forester of Ontario, Edmund Zavitz, went on a tour of the sand dunes of Simcoe County. While walking through the desert they came upon an important contributor to Willow Creek, a bubbling spring. With an abundant aquifer of pure clean water, similar to that which spawned the struggle to stop Dump Site 41, lead by Danny Beaton, (Mohawk Turtle Clan) Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Stephen Odgen and Elizabeth May, they decided that the spring provided an excellent place for a tree nursery to reforest the spreading desert. This nursery eventually become the 192 hectare Springwater Provincial Park. The park became a staging place for the reintroduction of the Trumpter Swan and Beaver, which now restored, thrive in nearby Minesing.

The battle to rescue Springwater Provincial Park from closure is illustrative of the difficult struggle ahead to stop sprawl in Midhurst. Following closure a year round Objiway struggle led by Beth Elson of occupation followed. It eventually, successfully resulted in the park being reopened under an arrangement between the provincial government and the Beausoleil First Nation.

Springwater Park is only one example of how Willow Creek watershed has benefitted from one of the most massive efforts at ecological restoration in Ontario. It has 21 Simcoe County Forests, which restored 2,039 hectares of blow sand wastes. The forested corridor along Willow Creek is substantial enough to provide a migration corridor for daring bear and moose to enter Minesing. This corridor could expand if it was properly protected from sprawl. The landscape is now an excellent example of how nature and agriculture can co-exist well, with an astonishing mosaic of Class One farmland and interconnected and slowly growing forests. The forests are especially thick in protecting Willow Creek and its tributaries.

The wonders of the struggles of ecological protection and restoration of the past are now threatened by the sinister prescriptions of the Midhurst Secondary Plan. As it stands currently, the plan calls for the construction of 10,000 housing units enough for 30,000 people, on +1,000 acres of the Class One and Two farmlands in the Willow Creek watershed. This will have an enormous environmental impact. Storm water will be dumped, laced with road salt, oil and other toxins into Willow Creek and eventually into Minesing. Building on top of the aquifer that provides recharge water discharged into the Minesing wetland, will also help to dry it up.

The struggle that stopped Dump Site 41 gives an appreciation of the magnitude of the effort to rescue Willow Creek and Minesing. The public servants who attempt to guide the provincial politicians with ecological folly know that it is folly to permit sprawl in Midhurst. The Growth Plan that is supposed to
guide land use planning in the most rapidly growing part of southern Ontario, originally attempted to confine urban growth in the Simcoe County region to the current municipal borders of Barrie. This would have kept sewage pollution out of the Minesing wetland.

The Growth Plan’s provisions were not changed on any rational basis, but simply to bow to potential developers. An aroused Ontario public would convince provincial politicians to listen to their land use planning advisors to impose a Ministerial Zoning Order under the Planning Act, to stop sprawl in Midhurst.

Part 1 and 2, published on June 1st and 15th.

Elder Danny Beaton, Mohawk Turtle Clan is an internationally recognized protector of Mother Earth. Dr. John Bacher is a researcher for the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS). Danny and John were central in the successful defense of Dump Site 41 and the Mega-Quarry in Melancthon, ON and denying the residential development of Springwater Provincial Park. They continue as important members of the Advisory Council of the Midhurst-based Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition.


Did the Midhurst Secondary Plan sprawl development overrule Ontario’s own endangered species law?

November 27, 2015

Why didn’t the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry apply its own laws and protect the Minesing wetlands habitat for this at-risk species?

eco small

Will Ontario continue to only listen to mega-sprawl developers?

An important article by Sara Carson at the Barrie Advance (not online), Rare dragonfly in Minesing wetlands declared at-risk speciespdf

An endangered dragonfly could lose its only known Canadian habitat if development takes place atop the Snow Valley ski hill, says Ellen Schwartzel, acting Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO).

And she blames the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for not doing enough to protect the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and its habitat in the Minesing wetlands.

“That was a very good example of where the science says this is what’s needed and where the ministry stopped short of protecting that habitat,” Schwartzel said.

20151127 Hines

This Hine’s emerald dragonfly was spotted close to the Minesing Wetlands at North Simcoe Railtrail near Sunnidale Road. CHRIS EVANS

The ECO’s annual report released Nov. 3 and titled Small Things Matter, used the Hine’s emerald as one example of the province not following a species’ recovery strategy, prepared under the Endangered Species Act.

“The province has had the opportunity to show some on the ground successes for the Endangered Species Act, they haven’t yet done that. And that’s disappointing,” Schwartzel said.

The Hine’s emerald recovery strategy, created in 2013, recommends its protected habitat include the Snow Valley Uplands because its groundwater feeds the entire wetland. Schwartzel is calling on the ministry to take recommendations in the recovery strategy seriously because the area is under development pressure.

“Given the specificity of this recommendation in the recovery strategy, and with no explanation of the ministry’s decisions provided, the ECO concludes that the MNRF opted to favour development, rather than to prioritize the protection of this species at risk habitat,” the ECO’s annual report states.

The habitat regulation for Hine’s emerald includes a 500-metre area around the habitat used by the species. Ministry spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said this area protects the flow of groundwater into the wetlands, and aquatic areas used by the species. But, she added, this does not mean development outside the habitat won’t require provincial approval.

“If activities outside this area are likely to have an adverse effect on the habitat, they may still require authorization under the Endangered Species Act to consider the needs of the species,” she said.

Kowalski added the recovery strategy is one source of information used to develop habitat regulations.

“Biological consideration of the species, community knowledge, socio-economics, and public input contribute to best available information by which habitat regulations are ultimately determined,” she said.

Chris Evans said it’s unknown what level of human disturbance this dragonfly can tolerate. BRERETON FIELD NATURALISTS’ CLUB PHOTO

Chris Evans, president of the Brereton Field Naturalists’ Club, discovered the Hine’s emerald here in 20074. It is also found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri. He said it’s unknown what level of human disturbance this dragonfly can tolerate.

“Perhaps its extirpation from other areas of Ontario indicates that we are damaging our aquifers and water supplies in ways we do not yet understand. Why not identify and protect all known and potential Hine’s emerald habitats from human development until we know the safe limits of our impacts?” he said.

Water levels are very important to the Hine’s emerald because these dragonflies reproduce and live as larvae in crayfish burrows that are very sensitive to disturbance, said local naturalist Bob Bowles. He takes part in the annual dragonfly count in the Minesing wetlands.

“Any development of the area would impact greatly on the Hine’s emerald,” Bowles said.

To read the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s report visit: http://eco.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2014_2015-AR.pdf

To learn more about the Hine’s Emerald and to see its recovery strategy, visit ontario.ca/page/hines-emerald.


“Mum’s the word” from the Mega developers, OMB and County of Simcoe about expanding Greenbelt environmental protection.

November 20, 2015

So we’re supposed to rest easy with the OMB-approved county Official Plan on the way? Right??

greenbelt-expanded

The Oak Ridges Moraine Partnership and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance have proposed Ontario’s Greenbelt expand to include almost 300,000 hectares in Simcoe County. The proposed area is shown in dark green and includes Lake Simcoe, the Oro Moraine, the Nottawasaga River Watershed and the Minesing Wetlands. SUBMITTED PHOTO

An interesting Barrie Advance article by Sara Carson called Groups ask province to expand Ontario’s Greenbelt (curiously not online but available in pdf)

When you drink tap water, take a shower and swim in a local lake, you want that water to be clean and safe.

This is why the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is asking the province to expand Ontario’s Greenbelt in our area.

“People get behind the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This is just the next logical step,” said coalition co-chair-person Margaret Prophet.

Ontario’s Greenbelt is a 1.8-million-acre parcel of protected farmland, wetland and forest stretching from the Greater Toronto Area north to Tobermory. In Simcoe County, the Greenbelt covers Holland Marsh crop areas in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil as well as portions of Adjala-Tosorontio and New Tecumseth.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson Conrad Spezowka said the province is committed to growing the Greenbelt. In the spring, the ministry completed a series of public consultations to review four provincial growth plans and to consider Greenbelt expansion.

“Municipal interest to date has been on adding urban river valleys within existing urban areas. This builds on the Greenbelt Plan amendment, which recognizes urban river valleys as important connections to the Great Lakes and will help municipalities in identifying possible areas for Greenbelt expansion,” Spezowska said

Proposed amendments will come forward in the winter of 2016, he added.

More than 100 community groups, including the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, have asked the province to nearly double the size of the Greenbelt to add 1.5 million acres of land containing vital water resources. In Simcoe County this includes almost 300,000 hectares of land covering the Lake Simcoe watershed, the Oro Moraine, the Nottawasaga River Wetlands, which supply and purify clean drinking water for most resident of the county, Prophet said.

“We’re hoping at the lest the vulnerable water areas of Simcoe County would be protected,” she added. “Only a portion of the Lake Simcoe watershed is protected.”

Cheryl Shindruk, a member of the Midhurst Landowners Group, declined comment on the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition’s plan to grow the greenbelt. The landowners group is made up of five development companies.

“When the Crombie report is made public, we will consider its recommendations and make comment if necessary, but we will not be commenting on any individual submissions from any group to the Crombie panel,” Shindruk said.

David Crombie chairs the six-member provincial growth plan review panel.

The Barrie Advance requested an interview with a County of Simcoe representative regarding the greenbelt expansion. In a prepared statement, Warden Gerry Marshall said the county does not comment on matters between the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and the province. He provided a stateme4nt about the county’s planning policies.

Marshall said the county’s updated official plan, under review at the Ontario Municipal Board, would expand the amount of protected green lands, significantly increase protection of wetland areas and protect farmland.

“The county is setting density targets with fixed boundaries for all settlement areas,” he added.

“Once approved, Simcoe County would have some of the most stringent land use protection policies and designations in the province. These are very strong planning policies that provide a responsible balance to protect our lands and resources, while fostering growth by creating new regional transportation options, supporting economic prosperity and encouraging healthy, vibrant communities,” Marshall said.

During the next 26 years, the county’s population will expand by 164,703 residents and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition questions what this means for our water supply. Prophet said greenbelt protection would ensure the water remains healthy throughout development.

“If we really want Simcoe County to grow in a sensible way, to make sure what we have now is preserved for future generations or even healthier than what we have, then now is the time to stand behind our water because once it’s compromised it’s compromised,” she said.

20151119 Margaret Prophet

Margaret Prophet, co-chair of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. SUBMITTED PHOTO

It said they would “not be able to handle much more effluent without he water quality being compromised and that was back nine years ago,” she said.

And we already see evidence the county’s water quality and supply is declining with summer water restrictions and beach closures, she added.

“Those things have started to impact our daily life and those are indicators that the water isn’t plentiful, or necessarily healthy in our area.”

Water restrictions have been commonplace in Barrie, Springwater and Orillia. This past summer, Thornton issued a water ban when water supply reached critical levels, Prophet noted.

Note: The public record shows the connections between the Midhurst Secondary Plan, Midhurst Landowners’ Group, Geranium Corporation and Ms. Shindruk. There are some related articles here about these relationships.

Originally published on DemocracyWatchSimcoe.ca.

 


Will the Greenbelt panel headed by former Toronto Mayor David Crombie “mean business” by stopping sprawl?

November 11, 2015

An article by Dr. John Bacher called Ontario May Finally Be Getting Serious About Stopping Urban Sprawl:

During the Second World War, one of the great intellectuals of our time, George Orwell, penned an essay about what the course of action for a Labour Party government he hoped for would be following a victorious peace. He contemplated what such a government would do if it were serious and “meant business.”

As it turned out, Orwell was quite prophetic in anticipating what a Labour Party government would do. It did truly “mean business.”

Major greenbelts were established around growing cities such as London. They have become so effective that the rate of loss of rural land after Labour’s landslide victory in 1945 became minuscule compared to the impacts of urban sprawl after the First World War.

20151111 John bacherOntario may be ready to spare more green places like the one on the left from what became of it on the right.

Here in Ontario, with the exception of protecting Niagara’s unique fruit lands, the designation in 2005 of a Greenbelt in Niagara and other parts of the Golden Horseshoe, was not a sign that the province “meant business” about stopping urban sprawl. This was because virtually everywhere else in the province, there was a gap in between the actual urban zoning boundary and the borders of the Greenbelt.

The agricultural and environmental protection zoned lands left out of the Greenbelt were given to expressive names. One was the “White Belt”, reflecting the colour on maps in between the Greenbelt and the grey urban boundary. An environmental protection group the Neptis Foundation came up with a more mocking phrase, inverting a planning designation of the Greenbelt Plan. This was to call the “White Belt”, “the Unprotected Countryside.”

In a 2005 study, released shortly before the passage of the Greenbelt legislation, Neptis calculated that the “Unprotected Countryside”, would create a land use planning disaster.

The “Unprotected Countryside” put 146,700 hectares of rural land at risk for sprawl. It found that even if the Greenbelt borders were extended right up to the actual urban zoning limits, densities would still be too low to efficiently encourage a high level of service for transit.

Neptis’ fears have come true in a most disturbing way. Through isolated hearings of the Ontario Municipal Board, (OMB), chunks of the Unprotected Countryside have passed from agricultural to urban zoning. Some 17,500 hectares of formerly agriculturally zoned land are now in urban land use designations, shrinking the White Belt to 129,500 hectares. One of the worst consequences of this sprawl will be its eventual consequences, once the land is actually built upon, on the ability of watersheds to support life.

White Belt sprawl hits lands that are very ecologically sensitive, impacting some of the province’s most vulnerable watersheds, lakes and streams.

In Hamilton, OMB hearings have led to the urbanization of hundreds of hectares of White Belt lands. This has impacted the headwaters of Twenty Mile Creek, which is already dry for most of the year, except for isolated ponds where fish such as the Northern Pike struggle to survive in the summer.

In 2005, there was a Lake Simcoe White Belt in Newmarket and Aurora. All these formerly agriculturally zoned lands are now in urban designations. To accommodate the anticipate flush of storm water, a new sewage treatment plant will have to be built at Holland Landing. This threatens the precarious Lake Trout and Whitefish populations of Lake Simcoe with a toxic tide of phosphorous loadings.

John Bacher SpringwaterThreatened landscape in Midhurst near Springwater Provincial Park north of Toronto. Land on left is in park and immediately to right is threatened by urban sprawl.

A provincially endowed but independent think tank, the Greenbelt Foundation, recently issued a study that hopefully is a sign that the province is getting ready to mean business in tackling sprawl. It is appropriately titled, “Growing the Greenbelt to Protect Vulnerable Water Resources in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region.”

Hopefully the release of “Growing the Greenbelt” is a sign that the province is preparing to cut back the bloated White Belt to protect our precious watersheds. It proposes to do this in three areas that encompass all headwaters of significant streams.

Two areas are part of the Oak Ridges Moraine in the Humber and Rouge watersheds. The third is a fragile stream with a more vulnerable headwaters area, Carruthers Creek in Pickering.

The “Growing the Greenbelt” report notes that 1,500 hectares of the Carruthers Creek headwaters area is threatened by urbanization supported by Durham Region. It notes that, “An Environmental Assessment produced by Ajax found that upstream development of the headwaters would increase downstream flooding in Ajax, directly impacting more than 1,000 residents, and causing an increase in flood speed at levels of up to 132 per cent.”

Pollution from development in the headwaters put two native cold water fish species at risk, the Mottled Scuplin and the endangered Redside Dace. It also jeopardizes a fishery of Rainbow Trout. A watershed study by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) found the threatened headwaters are important for threatened Bobolink, Meadowlark and Monarch butterflies. They are also a resting refuge for migrating birds.

“Growing the Greenbelt” documents carefully the ecological threats posed by the urbanization of the Rouge headwaters in Markham, some 2,000 hectares. It concludes that, “Enveloped on three sides by the Greenbelt, protection and enhancement of these lands can provide important natural connections to the highly fragmented watershed and help reverse a serious decline in water quality downstream.”

In addition to the cold water Mottled Sculpin and Rainbow Darter, the Rouge here provides habitat for another good ecological indicator, the Brook Lamprey. A TRCA watershed study finds that these species are all “on the threshold of decline.” It warns that urbanization would bring about consequences similar to those on the Rouge’s most degraded tributary, Beaver Creek, where there is a “higher concentration of phosphorous and E. Coli.”

A TRCA watershed study for the Humber River also notes the threats posed by expansion into the White Belt. It has identified such “harmful impacts of urbanization” on “water balance, water quality, natural cover, aquatic and terrestrial communities, cultural heritage and air quality. These effects include increased surface runoff, more water pollution, greater annual flow volume in rivers and streams, increased erosion and sedimentation, channel instability and losses of cultural heritage and biodiversity.”

In addition to greening the White Belt the “Growing the Greenbelt” report identifies the need to stop 2,000 acres of sprawl in the Midhurst area of Springwater Township, located in the headwaters of the Nottawasaga River. A two year struggle involving a native occupation was required to stop the proposed closure of Springwater Provincial Park, an important source of water for the Minesing wetland. The report stresses the need to grow the Greenbelt here to protect “large swaths of recharge lands” vital for this significant wetland complex.

The “Growing the Greenbelt” report also listened to the City Council of Thorold which for a decade has been calling for the extension of the Greenbelt around Lake Gibson. It stresses an area that “supplies drinking water to half of Niagara Region, including St. Catharines and Niagara on the Lake, with an estimated 150,000 residents dependent on these supplies. The Lake also supplies flow to coldwater streams, many with brook trout populations and provides habitat for water birds such as herons. Largely forested, the area connects Short Hills Provincial Park and the Welland Canal.”

It is to be hoped that “Growing the Greenbelt” reflects the still secret recommendations of the hearing panel on the provincial Co-ordinated Plan review, headed by former Toronto Mayor, David Crombie. If this is the case, it may be a good sign that the province is finally meaning business when it comes to protecting our watersheds.

John Bacher is a veteran conservationist in Niagara, Ontario and long-time member of the citizen group, Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society. A past contributor of posts to Niagara At Large, his most recent book is called ‘Two Billion Trees and Counting – The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz’.


The Midhurst Secondary Plan will never happen.

November 7, 2015

No 10,000 sprawl homes plunked down on Class 1 and 2 agricultural land.

barrie-wastewater

No threat to Minesing Wetlands–Nottawasaga River–Wasaga Beach (Nottawasaga Valley version) or Lake Simcoe (Lake Simcoe watershed alternative).

swtp

The real money was always in buying Barrie’s waste water and water supply (privatizing a public asset).

Public (non-native and native) revulsion to that plan changes the internal rate of return on this utility bill (NOT housing) project.

They’ll walk away using one of +100 environmental pretenses to save face.


Just how frequently has iLoveMidhurst.ca been viewed since December 2011?

September 26, 2015

In total, 53,915 times, 1,198 monthly, or 39.9 views per day.

20150926 Traffic ilm

The 10 most viewed posts in 2015 are:

  1. Why are people nailing old shoes to a dead maple tree in Springwater township?
  2. A 600 acre Waverley Quarry in the making?
  3. An 83-foot-high KKK fiery cross shone like a beacon over Barrie and Allandale in 1926 and the surrounding countryside
  4. Map showing areas of Midhurst Secondary Plan the Province will not dispute
  5. Is Metrus (DG Group) doing a deeply cynical end run by clear cutting the David Dunlap Forest in Richmond Hill?
  6. How much carbon dioxide does one mature sugar maple tree remove from the atmosphere?
  7. Corruption in local government: 5 Types
  8. Trees breathe for us
  9. Municipal corruption and Thomas Nast, cartoonist
  10. What legal duty of care does Springwater Township CAO Robert Brindley have to the citizens of Springwater Township?

Originally posted by Les Stewart from iLoveMidhurst.ca.

 


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