Toronto – Ontario environmental groups are underwhelmed by the Province’s “Vision” for growth in Simcoe County. The Growth Secretariat, at the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure released Simcoe Area: A Strategic Vision for Growth in June of this year to offer an alternative toSimcoe County’s 2008 Official Plan.
A number of environmental groups contacted each other, dismayed at the failings they saw in the Province’s “Vision”, and committed to work together to give recommendations to the Province. They have just sent a letter to various ministries, and are releasing their responses to the Vision this week.
One of the most pressing issues is the controversial Bill 196, which proposes that Barrie annex 2,293 hectares of land in northern Innisfil, which are largely forests and farms. While most Simcoe observers would agree that Barrie manages growth and environmental concerns better than Innisfil, if the annexation of land moves ahead more quickly than the studies and plans required under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, development there could have a devastating effect on Lake Simcoe.
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority makes the dire prediction that: “This increase in hardened surface would result in the current Watershed Report Card grades from a C to an E in Lover’s Creek and from a B to an E in Hewitts Creek.” Lake trout and Whitefish rely on the cold, deep waters of Kempenfelt Bay, where Barrie sits, and where the proposed annexation lands drain.
Similar environmental outcomes are expected from other controversial development areas, such as the 750 hectare employment zone in Bradford West Gwillimbury, on Highway 400. Despite the ongoing public consultation period, the Ontario Municipal Board recently approved this development.
Robert Eisenberg, the co-founder of Campaign Lake Simcoe, which led the charge for the Lake Simcoe Protection Act says, “It does seem bizarre to pass the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and then abet the destruction of Simcoe County’s natural resources.”
Many environmental groups note the absence of water conservation measures in the Vision. Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) says, “Maximizing water conservation and efficiency is the cheapest, least energy intensive and most environmentally sensitive means of water supply for new growth. Its absence in this document is a glaring omission, especially since the strategy champions other forms of green infrastructure but emphasizes a supply-side approach and the optimization of existing pipelines such as the one between Collingwood and Alliston in terms of water supply.”
Before Simcoe County moves ahead with any new development plans the Province needs to insist on an aggressive Zero Waste program being implemented to eliminate the need for new waste landfill sites. The current plan to draw down groundwater supplies in order to create a new landfill site threatens local groundwater quality and quantity. Under further predicted drought conditions, the Alliston aquifer may be one of the last few locations in the Province where high quality groundwater supplies will be available.
Simcoe Area: A Strategic Vision for Growth is out for public review now, until September 2, 2009. Campaign Lake Simcoe encourages the public to speak up before September 2nd by taking action at www.CampaignLakeSimcoe.ca
Paving Lake Simcoe, Campaign Lake Simcoe’s response to Simcoe Area: A Strategic Vision for Growth, is available for free download at www.CampaignLakeSimcoe.ca
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Mike Layton, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 257; (416) 525-5758(cell)
Carol Maas, Polis Institute 519-749-1996
Mary Muter, Georgian Baykeeper for Georgian Bay Forever 705 375 2045
Amber Cowie, Ontario Nature, 416 444-8419 ext. 273
John Jackson, Great Lakes United, (613) 797-9532
Carolyn Day, Canadian Federation of University Women: Ontario Council, (519) 797-5558