Developers want to pave over a sensitive ecological area and prime farmland in Durham Region. We need to stop it. 

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The area in question is the Carruthers Creek Headwaters, located in northeast Pickering just south of the Oak Ridges Moraine. This prime agricultural land, surrounded by protected Greenbelt land, is a sensitive aquatic ecosystem, and an important drainage system that allows stormwater to run off naturally.

Carruthers Creek Headwaters

Paving over this area would not only mean the loss of this sensitive natural area and prime agricultural lands, both of which are under too much pressure already in Southern Ontario, but it may also contribute to flood risk, and require the Town of Ajax to raise taxes to pay for upgrades to the city’s stormwater management system. 

The Carruthers Creek Headwaters land is the subject of attention again thanks to a report from the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and a consultation process initiated by Durham Region, now on hold temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the last comprehensive review of the Region of Durham Official Plan, a developer made a concerted effort to urbanize these lands. The proposal went to the Ontario Municipal Board, which ruled that these lands could not be developed unless a full watershed study of Carruthers Creek was completed.

Durham Region contracted with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to complete this study. The draft report is now complete and is available for public comment and input. 

The consultation period, including a public open house, is on hold due to pandemic restrictions. But it will take place at some future time, and it is crucial that everyone who cares about protecting these and other lands like them across the Greater Golden Horseshoe become familiar with the issue, and provide comments to the TRCA.

The report clearly shows that urbanization will have a negative effect on the Carruthers Creek watershed and will lead to a dramatic increase in downstream flooding and erosion. Among the TRCA’s findings: 

  • The aquatic ecosystem is already under stress
  • The flow of water through the watershed is out of balance, resulting in flooding and erosion
  • Development of the headwaters will further degrade the ecosystem, and worsening existing flooding and erosion issues by 77 per cent               
  • In the event of urbanization of the headwaters in Pickering, the Town of Ajax would have to both retrofit old stormwater management infrastructure and build new infrastructure  at an unspecified cost through increased taxes and/or new stormwater levies or charges

Carruthers creek headwaters

Since the Ontario Municipal Board ruling, a new developer is actively seeking to urbanize these lands in the present Durham Official Plan review. This would cause not just extensive damage to the watershed but extensive downstream flooding that taxpayers and homeowners – and not the developer – will have to pay for.

Ultimately, this watershed study will be considered along with other required reports on development and land needs as part of Durham Region’s Municipal Comprehensive Review of their Official Plan. From there, decisions will be made about whether or not to expand the urban boundary into the Carruthers Creek headwaters. 

But now is the time for us to get organized, to voice our concerns to the Durham Regional Councillors, and build a movement to save these ecologically sensitive headwaters. Take action now and tell Durham Region Councillors to reject proposals to develop the Carruthers Creek headwaters.

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