NVCA votes to request federal status for Nottawasaga
By Kate Harries
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority has voted in favour of requesting that the federal government add the Nottawasaga River to the new federal Navigation Protection Act.
NVCA chair Nina Bifolchi, a Wasaga Beach councillor, attempted to defer the decision, but lost on a tied vote at yesterday’s board meeting.
Bifolchi told other NVCA directors that she had circulated the NVCA staff report to Wasaga Beach staff and “their first impression is that there really isn’t any major positive or negative for Wasaga Beach at this point as far as they can understand.”
Bifolchi said the town’s staff are looking into the matter further and will be reporting back to council. “I’m not comfortable approving it until such a time as I have a better understanding of it,” she said.
Paul McQueen of the Municipality of Grey Highlands expressed willingness to wait for Bifolchi’s concerns to be addressed.
“This is the most travelled area at the entrance to the bay so I’d certainly like to hear Wasaga Beach,” said McQueen.
The vote to defer was 8-8, which means it did not pass.
The resolution in favour of the request for federal status for the river was moved by Clearview Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage and seconded by Shelburne Councillor Walter Benotto.
“I’d hate to see this lost,” Savage said, adding that she had grave concerns when the request came forward, but the issue is one of downloading and potential financial impact on the municipality and the conservation authority.
She told Bifolchi that Clearview and Essa councils, who have voted in favour of the requests and forwarded it to the NVCA, have done “very good due diligence” on the matter.
A report from Clearview Planning Director Michael Wynia was included in the agenda materials for yesterday’s meeting, along with a report from Byron Wesson, NVCA Director Land Operations/Stewardship. Link to Feb, 29 agenda.
The request first came forward from AWARE Simcoe, which has made presentations to the NVCA and five area councils, including Wasaga Beach. The Navigation Protection Act, introduced as part of the 2012 omnibus bill and expected to come into force next month, applies to a list of only 100 lakes and 61 rivers. The Nottawasaga is not on that list.
The new legislation will replace the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was first enacted in 1883 and applied to around 40,000 lakes and 2.5 million rivers
Mono Councillor Fred Nix asked for clarification on whether a NVCA permit to construct a dock, for instance, would address navigability issues.
NVCA Planning Services Director Chris Hibbard said it would not. “We don’t have the mandate or the expertise.” That leaves a regulatory gap that the federal government suggests be addressed through the courts.
Earl Hawkins Mulmur Councillor told Bifolchi that he believes Wasaga Beach is the most affected by the federal changes and “If you’re not happy or if your council is not happy or if there are some unanswered questions I think maybe we should defer it.”
Bifolchi re-iterated her lack of “comfort level.”
“I must agree with you,” said Barrie Councillor Arif Khan.
However, the motion passed. It was not a recorded vote. Bifolchi, Hawkins and Town of the Blue Mountains Councillor Gail Ardiel were among those voting against.