Toronto –The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is about to approve a proposal for a 1,000 slip marina for Lake Simcoe, a project having significant environmental impacts and about which environmental and community organizations have been protesting for months. The Big Bay Point development calls for 1,600 resort units (fractional ownership), 400 hotel units, a 1,000 slip marina on a man-made bay, and an 18-hole golf course. The marina would be one of the largest inland marinas in the country.
“It is premature to approve anything of this mega-scale without a thorough understanding of the Lake’s carrying capacity,” said Ladies of the Lake Co-founder Annabel Slaight. “No one even knows how to measure the impact of that many people; although hopefully we are on the eve of future growth management strategies. A declaration of provincial interest for a precedent-setting project like this is essential.”
 
A review by the province of three critical environmental studies seems to have occurred within days of the developer submitting the reports.  The reports flow from a controversial Memorandum of Settlement signed between the province and the developer in April 2007. The environmental groups opposing the project refused to sign the Settlement.
Despite repeated requests to be included in the review, government endorsement of the studies came without consulting environmental groups or their experts.

“If this project was proposed for the Greenbelted side of the Lake, the project would be strictly prohibited,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “Many feared that leaving the shoreline of Simcoe County exposed when the Greenbelt was created was a big mistake.  Unless the province acts to stop this project, this case proves they were right.”

The groups have vowed to make a plea for reason at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on Wednesday, August 8, 2007. They are also renewing calls for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, John Gerretsen, to declare a provincial interest in the proposed Big Bay Point Resort.  Such a declaration costs nothing, protects the public interest and ensures that the government, and not the Ontario Municipal Board, has the final say on the protection of the Lake.

Concerned citizens disagree with the findings of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing concerning the environmental impact of the proposal, including:
 

three critical environmental studies were reviewed and approved in a mere 21 days, implying that no new field work was undertaken in support of the so-called new reports;
existing fish and terrestrial habitats will be lost or impaired, including possibly habitat of rare or threatened species;
 necessary water quality data should have taken up to 2 years to complete. 

“There is no existing policy framework at the provincial level or within the Conservation Authority to evaluate proposals for man-made lakes,” said Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for Ontario Nature. “The current planning regime allows different parts of the same watershed to be subjected to different growth parameters and standards – this unfair system favours some land owners over others.”
On March 1, 2006, the McGuinty government acted to protect Lake Simcoe by declaring a provincial interest in the so-called “UCCI Development” in Oro-Medonte.  The UCCI development is far smaller than Big Bay.

The groups are now putting their faith in the environmental credentials of the Premier in the hopes of avoiding a protracted battle at the OMB.
 
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521(cell)
Annabel Slaight, Co-Founder of the Ladies of the Lake, (905) 476-7575;  aslaight@rogers.com
Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404;  wendyf@ontarionature.org
Jon Johnson, Board Member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, (416) 972-7444; patjon@rogers.com