Moraine is healthy: report
By JENNIFER BURDEN, THE PACKET & TIMES November 1 2010
Two Simcoe County conservation authorities have marked the environmental health of Oro Moraine with passing grades in their 2010 report card.
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) awarded the Oro Moraine an overall B+ for its stream health, wetland conditions, forest conditions and groundwater.
“The report card provides a summary of environmental health on the Oro Moraine,” Dave Featherstone, NVCA watershed monitoring program manager and project lead, said in a press release.
“Overall, the moraine is healthy; however Willow Creek headwater could use some tender loving care. Where practical, wetlands would benefit by increasing natural cover along their borders.”
The Oro Moraine is a natural landform extending northeast from Highway 400 to Orillia. The west and east tips of the moraine extend into Springwater Township and the City of Orillia and is approximately 21 kilometres long by 6 kilometres wide.
It was formed more than 12,000 years ago by the retreating of glaciers, which deposited huge volumes of silt, sand and gravel in the area. The moraine serves as the headwaters for watersheds draining west to Nottawasaga Bay, north to Severn Sound and south to Lake Simcoe.
The overall B+ was achieved by averaging the grades awarded to the individual segments of the moraine detailed in the eight-page report.
An A was given to forest conditions within the moraine.
“Over the past 70 years, reforestation of marginal agricultural lands has increased forest cover on the moraine. Much of this success is due to the efforts of the Simcoe County Forest program,” stated the report.
Today, forests, dominated by conifers and hardwood maple forests, cover approximately 50% of the moraine.
Stream health on the moraine was given a B by the two conservation authorities.
Broken up into six headwaters, the report card highlighted the Willow Creek catchment as being only “fair.”
“Groundwater discharge is relatively weak and headwater tributaries often flow through agricultural landscape with little natural cover,” stated the report.
But overall, the reports identifies stream health in the Oro Moraine as “generally good.”
Wetland conditions were also given a B on the report card.
The high, rolling terrain combined with sandy and gravel soils results in very low wetland coverage on the moraine, stated the report, but extensive groundwater coverage along the flanks of the moraine support provincially significant wetlands.
The Oro Moraine’s groundwater, which is essential for a variety of human and ecosystem uses such as good well water and maintaining wetland levels, was awarded an A.
“It’s a good indication of the awfully good work that has been done so far,” Mayor Harry Hughes said. “The conservation authorities and volunteer groups will now be able to concentrate on what kind of work needs to be done and where it will be done.”
Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough said the report card was encouraging and credits the township’s proactive approach to the protection of the moraine for the good results.
“We did a huge amount of proactive preservation,” he said.
Ward 1 Coun. Mel Coutanche, who is also the co-chair of the OMEGA committee, said the overall good grade was the result of the right protection being provided for the moraine.
“The policies and the official plan of the municipality over the years only allowed appropriate development and aggregate extraction. This is proof that looking after our environment with policy and procedure really pays off,” Coutanche said.
There has been debate recently on whether a construction-material recycling plant, proposed to be located on what is now an aggregate pit at Line 7 and Old Barrie Road on the Oro Moraine, would threaten the health of the moraine and its groundwater.
The township has signed a lease with the London-based TRY Recycling company, allowing them to start testing the site to make sure it is the appropriate place for their facility.
“All that the lease does is allow TRY Recycling to do the testing to see if that site is suitable and OK for that. If it’s not then it won’t go ahead. Simple as that. Just because we’ve signed a lease doesn’t give them the right to go ahead,” Hough said.
The Oro Moraine 2010 report card was supported by the Oro-Medonte Environmental Group Advisors (OMEGA) working committee comprised of John Bosomworth, David Kennedy, and Jim Woodford who enlisted the resources of Featherstone and the NVCA and Pamela Strong from the LSRCA to design, develop and draft the report.