New Phosphorus Offset Program proposed
By Miriam King, Bradford Times
Faced with the need to reduce phosphorus loading of Lake Simcoe, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority is thinking “outside of the box.”
So far, phosphorus reduction programs have only succeeded in keeping pace with growth and the increasing urbanization within the watershed, especially with the added issue of climate change. Phosphorus, a nutrient, feeds weed growth and contributes to the eutrophication and declining water quality of the Lake.
Noting that the urban growth isn’t stopping, and that paving and the creation of impermeable surfaces leads to an increase in runoff and therefore the amount of phosphorus entering the lake, LSRCA Chief Administrative Officer Mike Walters came to BWG Council on May 16 to present a new Lake Simcoe Phosphorus Offset Program, designed to combat the problem.
In a sense, the program is similar to a carbon tax, but on new development. Rather than demand that developers “fix” the problem on their own, developers can pay “cash in lieu” – and the Conservation Authority will use the money to effectively retrofit existing stormwater management ponds, to prevent runoff – and phosphorus – from entering Lake Simcoe. Retrofits would be approved by a Working Group made up of stakeholders and agency staff.
The “Zero Export Policy” calculates the amount of phosphorus a new development could generate, based on area and the percent covered by impermeable driveways, roads and roof tops; multiplies by a factor of 2.5; and then by a set fee to generate the levy – which in one example came to $308,000 for a 9.2 hectare, 176 lot subdivision.
“The builder and developer has come to the table on this in a big way,” said Walters, noting that the formula also provides a strong incentive for the developer to introduce innovations, including more effective stormwater management ponds, and Low Impact Development, which can reduce phosphorus runoff and therefore the amount owing. Payment would be a condition of draft plan approval.
Walters noted that the hope is that fees collected will allow the LSRCA to provide 100% funding to municipalities, to undertake costly retrofits of stormwater ponds. Fees collected in one area will stay in that area, he assured Council.
The only cost to the Town would be long term: the municipality would be expected to maintain the stormwater facility, once the retrofit is completed.
“We have a long shopping list of potential projects,” Walters said, asking for Council’s support for the Offset program. “Every day we delay in this program is a day we are wasting.”
The fee wouldl only apply to developments larger than 0.5 hectares.