In “Letters”
Ontario’s foremost freshwater quality expert, Dr. Peter Dillon, declared that it would be “impossible” to conclude the Big Bay Point mega-marina would be good for the environment, in direct conflict with the media statements of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.
He also laid down a new marker for protectingLake Simcoe. Phosphorous levels must be cut in half, to 35 tonnes, to allow the lake to recover from years of degradation.
“For the longest time we’ve relied on common sense to tell us it’s a bad idea to put such a huge development on a stressed ecosystem like Lake Simcoe; now we have the definitive expert opinion from Dr. Dillon,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director, of Environmental Defence, a founding partner group of Campaign Lake Simcoe.”Why is the government of Ontario supporting a massive development before finishing the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy or passing the Lake Simcoe Protection Act?
“Dalton McGuinty is putting the water-skier before the boat at Big Bay Point.”
Dillon, the former director of the Inland Lake Study program for the Ministry of the Environment and expert in biogeochemistry, testified at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing that there is insufficient data to support the conclusions drawn in the proponent’s reports on natural heritage, water quality, and the impact of the development on the health of Lake Simcoe.
Despite ministry support for the project, he testified that the lake’s recovery is far from complete, and that the overall health of the lake is not good.
A recipient of the first ministry Excellence in Research award, and the creator of the lakeshore capacity model used in Ontario and around the world, Dillon testified that the estimated phosphorous budget underestimates the potential contribution of the proposed development.
He stated that the expensive and unproven proposal to take 1,692 houses off their current septic systems and connect them to the big pipe could actually increase phosphorous loading to the Lake.
Dillon also raised concerns that the golf course and the 2,000 units of the proposed development will negatively impact the water quality of the lake.
With respect to the developer’s proposal to manage phosphorous loading through the use of storm water ponds,. Dillon stated that such reliance is “misguided”. He referenced scientific literature which illustrates that, in the longterm, stormwater management ponds actually act as a means of transporting, not trapping, nutrients such as phosphorous and contaminants.
“Allowing a development to add phosphorus to the lake in order to avoid the responsibility and the cost that other municipalities and their citizens are bearing across the lake is patently unfair as well as ultimately harmful to the lake,” said Robert Eisenberg, cofounder of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “To put it crudely, subtracting an alleged reduction in phosphorus achieved by converting a farm field to a golf course and taking neighbouring homes off septic tanks is a sleight of hand.”
“Simply put, there is not enough data here to make any assessment of the potential for fisheries effects,” said Dillon.
He also raised concerns about the loss of amphibian habitat, pointing to major climate forecasting models which suggest that amphibian habitat is already in danger due to forecasted declines in wetlands and water table levels.
The OMB hearing to review the proposal for 2,000 “resort” units and a 1,000 slip marina dug into the shoreline of the lake resumes for final submissions on Nov. 13.