Moraine growth continues, despite act
by Serena Willoughby
Metroland: York Region
Dec. 18, 2006
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Remember when the province promised to protect environmentally
sensitve lands in York Region under its Oak Ridges Moraine
Activists do remember and are wondering, then, why growth
is still taking place in areas covered by the act, including
hydro pole installation on Bayview Avenue in Richmond Hill.
But Save the Oak Ridges Moraine -- a group key in getting
the legislation passed -- says it was never intended to halt
development in the environmentally sensitive zone.
Carrie Hoffelner, a environmentalist who ran unsuccessfully
for a seat on Richmond Hill council last month, questions
why the transmission lines, which she says aren't in keeping
with the natural features of the moraine, are being installed
by PowerStream, the area's hydro utility, and why the public
wasn't consulted before work began.
The lines, which run between Stouffville and Bethesda roads,
will serve as feeder lines, acting as a back up for existing
residences and to serve new areas PowerStream spokesperson
Eric Fagan says.
But the Oak Ridges Moraine Act is meant to protect the natural
features of the moraine, not prevent growth, says Debbie Crandall
of Save the Oak Ridges Moraine.
"The problem is the Oak Ridges Moraine Act is not there
to protect against sprawl, it is there to protect the moraine.
It was never thought that this would stop hydro poles and
sewers from going in," she says.
"That's a weakness of the plan, but by protecting the
moraine, it sets the bar higher than anywhere else in the
She argues that while the act won't stop every single project,
it offers a level of protection that's better than what existed
For Ms Hoffelner, it comes down to lack of enforcement.
"They've got the legislation there, but they simply
refuse to endorse it," Ms Hoffelner says.
She points to a similar situation with the lower Leslie Street
trunk sewer that stretches from 19th Avenue to Bethesda.
The project is exempt from the full environmental assessment
process because, due to its small scale, it is not subject
to the more stringent Environment Ministry approvals.
The problem is the legislation is not being interpreted in
good faith, Ms Hoffelner says, adding York Region won't enforce
it because the region is under pressure from the Places to
Grow Act, which calls for high growth in parts of the region,
including Newmarket, in the next 20 years.
"It's sort of like putting the fox in charge of the
henhouse," she says.
Like sewers, the scope of the hydro pole project isn't large
enough to warrant an environmental assessment, despite the
fact it runs through a core area of the moraine.
"The Oak Ridges Moraine Act and the greenbelt plan and
other measures work together to make sure there isn't a free-for-all
on the moraine," says Laurel Broten, Ontario's environment
minister. "It doesn't mean we won't see development of
Consultation with the public and experts plays a major role
in determining if projects go ahead, Ms Broten says.
But with such a small-scale project, there is no one to ensure
consultation happens, other than resident groups such as the
Richmond Hill Naturalists and activists such as Ms Hoffelner,
who is protesting the hydro project.
She is working with PowerStream to get a consultation process
going but, in the meantime, construction continues.
"We're at the point now where we just want to get a
copy of the Oak Ridges Moraine Act and read it over a loud
speaker as the construction is going on," she says. "At
least then we would feel like we were doing something and
not getting caught in some bureaucratic process," she
Within the act, a core area has the highest level of protection
and only servicing for existing and "very restricted
new resource management" is allowed.
"No matter how you look at it, there are people on the
moraine and people need power," Ms Crandall says.
The key, she says, is opening dialogue with developers to
ensure they are installing infrastructure in keeping with
the natural features of the area.
Meanwhile, groups are working with York Region to come up
with a strategy for dealing with the infrastructure they know
Projects, such as lighting for pedestrian crossings on Yonge
Street in parts of the moraine, need to be looked at differently,
says Mary Ann Yake, the group's president.
"They (York Region) understand where we're coming from
and they want to work with us," she says. "There's
an opportunity to redefine the approach to these areas that
are supposed to be protected."
STORM Coaliton is planning a symposium for February. Visit
-One of Ontario's most significant landforms, the irregular
ridge stretches 160 kilometres from the Trent River to the
-The moraine divides watersheds draining south into western
Lake Ontario from those draining north into Georgian Bay,
Lake Simcoe and the Trent River system. There are 190,000
hectares of land and water within the moraine.
-The moraine has a unique concentration of environmental,
geological and hydrological (features that make its ecosystem
vital to south central Ontario.
-The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001 received Royal
Assent Dec. 14, 2001.
-The Oak Ridges Moraine Act and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation
Plan are key elements of Smart Growth, the Ontario government's
long-term strategy for what it says promotes and manages growth,
sustains a strong economy and promotes a healthy environment.
-The plan divides the moraine into four land use designations:
natural core areas (38 per cent of the moraine), natural linkage
areas (24 per cent), countryside areas (30 per cent) and settlement
areas (8 per cent).
Original link: http://www.yorkregion.com/yr/yr4/YR_News/TopStories/story/3817325p-4414792c.html
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