• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

News clips: Ontario may expand Greenbelt to protect water supply

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Dec 7th, 2017
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Springwater Mayor Bill French -SCGC photo

Springwater Mayor Bill French interviewed at coalition news conference -SCGC photo

Ontario is studying the impact of development on water sources in seven areas, from Simcoe County to Niagara

By Tess Kalinowski Toronto Star

The Ontario government is looking at expanding the 810,000-hectare environmentally protected Greenbelt around the Toronto region in a bid to protect clean water supplies from encroaching urbanization and climate change.

The government is studying seven areas totalling about 345,000 hectares, from Simcoe County to Niagara, to assess whether they warrant the Greenbelt designation that would limit development in environmentally sensitive areas.

New boundaries would be decided once the study is complete, says the government.

The move is overdue, say environmentalists and politicians, who are trying to keep up with the urban sprawl that is taxing the infrastructure, farmland and water sources in those places.

Homebuilders say buyers have been priced out of the city in part by provincial land use restrictions, sending them to more affordable places in Simcoe and Wellington counties and adding to the environmental pressures there.

But only about 20 per cent of the land available for development in the existing Greenbelt has been used up, so expanding the protected zone doesn’t impact housing, said Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro.

“This isn’t an exercise about restricting growth. It’s about how and where we will grow,” he said on Thursday.

Mauro cited projections for 4 million more people in the region by 2041.

“We understand that there are significant population pressures coming. We need planning documents and policies that will manage that growth as much as we are able,” he said.

The province has launched a 90-day consultation period on a study of wetlands, streams, rivers and moraines in Waterloo, Wellington, Brant, Simcoe and Dufferin counties. The northwest area of the Greater Golden Horseshoe is expected to face particular growth pressure, said Mauro.

A coalition of environmentalists called ProtectOurWater wants the province to expand the study area and establish a 600,000-hectare “bluebelt” that would include other vulnerable areas in Wellington County, key watersheds in the east and along the south shore of Lake Ontario.

The province has been aware of the need for water protections for more than a decade, said Margaret Prophet, executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. Signs of environmental deterioration are so commonplace that people take water restrictions as normal.

Beach advisories triggered by high e-coli levels in the lakes have increased 250 per cent since 2007.

“Stream health, stream temperatures, forest cover have all been on a declining trend. Water quality in some areas where it’s more urbanized has decreased more quickly than areas where it’s less urbanized,” said Prophet, who is urging the Liberals to act before the provincial election in June.

“We’re in a situation where action was needed 10 years ago. If we couldn’t have done it 10 years ago, we needed to do it today.”

Mauro would not commit to a timeline.

“I won’t speculate on whether it will be finalized before or after an election,” he said.

Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, said the government needs to create detailed maps and apply scientific data to its study of environmental sensitivities in relationship to urban areas.

Planning policies already protect water and the environment, and development helps pay for the infrastructure needed in growth areas, he said.

“When new communities are being approved and new housing is coming on stream, a number of the water resources are already being protected through those processes,” said Vaccaro.

Springwater Township Mayor Bill French likes the provincial plan to study Greenbelt expansion in his area north of Barrie, south of Wasaga Beach.

“We have concerns in our township because there’s a proposal to effectively build a new city on the edge of Barrie of up to 30,000 people,” he said.

“It’s too bad the study wasn’t done prior to those approvals because it requires all fresh water and its effluent to be dumped into the Minesing wetlands and that may be a serious long-term problem that’s not sustainable,” said French.

“The growth has happened so quickly we haven’t seen the resulting damages to the environment. There are acres of natural heritage, farmland and forest — they’re automatic recharge areas for water. All the forestry generates oxygen. When you start taking that out of play, you’re going to have a long-term impact.”

If you like drinking water then experts say here’s your chance to protect it

Province seeking input on Greenbelt expansion

by: Sue Sgambati Barrie Today

A local coalition is applauding the province’s move to preserve drinking water resources by expanding a protected area known as the Greenbelt.

There are many areas of Simcoe County that could potentially be included in the Greenbelt according to a draft map, such as the Oro Moraine, aquifer complexes, river corridors and provincially significant wetlands.

The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition held a news conference at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in Shanty Bay Thursday to react to the government’s announcement and issue a call to action for residents.

Over the next 90 days, Ontario is looking for public input on the Greenbelt expansion and will hold public open houses in several locations across the study area.

“We are very happy with today’s announcement that the province is starting this process. That they’re taking the water quantity and quality of Simcoe County and other areas seriously,” said Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of SCGC,

Prophet says people take water for granted but it’s a finite resource.

“My call to action is do not think that your water is going to stand up for itself. It needs our help. It needs our voice and it needs our action. So if you drink water, you need to be involved.”

Currently, Ontario’s Greenbelt spans 1.8 million acres but mostly avoids Simcoe County. Expanding the Greenbelt over these sensitive and significant water resources would be a needed first step in securing our clean water supplies for future generations, according to the coalition.

“It’s greatly overdue as far as I’m concerned,” said Bernard Pope, Simcoe County Farmer and Chair of Ontario Farmland Trust. “The government is listening to us.”

Springwater Mayor Bill French welcomed the chance to preserve sensitive areas which would help protect farmland and respect First Nations’ rights.

“I think it’s a really good start. As long as we come up with some teeth in the policies,” French said, adding that defining the Greenbelt will simplify development decisions because in a Greenbelt ‘you cant go there.’

The downsides according to the panel are the fact that two-thirds of the shoreline of Lake Simcoe are not included in the study area and the proposed area is too small.

In the next 25 years, the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s population is forecasted to grow by approximately 50% or more than 4 million people. This growth will place tremendous pressure on our water resources, according to the government.

“This is a major step forward to ensure the viability of farms and farmland as well as food security in the province,” said Pope.

Ontario is seeking public input on seven areas whose water the province deems most in need of protection, including moraines, cold water streams and wetlands in the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

About 10,000 hectares were added to the Greenbelt this year, which the government says include 21 new urban river valleys and associated coastal wetland areas that connect to Lake Ontario.

The study area is based on the locations in the outer ring with the highest concentrations of important water resources under pressure from current or forecasted urban growth. The study area was identified based on the locations of important “building blocks” features: moraines and other sand and gravel areas, coldwater streams and wetlands. It is made up of the following seven features and areas:

-The Waterloo and Paris/Galt moraine complex in Waterloo Region, and Brant and Wellington counties.
-The Orangeville Moraine in Wellington and Dufferin counties.
-Several small moraines, including the Gibraltar and Singhampton moraines, along the brow of the Niagara Escarpment in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
-The Oro Moraine in northeast Simcoe County.
-The Nottawasaga River corridor in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
-Important surface water and recharge features in southeast Simcoe County.
-Catchment areas and wetlands west of Minesing in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.

The first stage – the study stage – will go to March 7, 2018.

What Simcoe County environmentalists are saying about Greenbelt expansion plans

Ontario government launches public consultation over proposal Dec. 7

by Chris Simon Barrie Advance

The Ontario government’s plan to expand the Greenbelt is nice, but the scope needs to be wider, said the head of a leading Simcoe County environmental coalition.

On Dec. 7, the province announced the launch of a public consultation process regarding the expansion of the Greenbelt into areas on the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe — including large sections of the Oro Moraine, Nottawasaga River corridor, southeast Simcoe and a stretch west of Minesing.

Areas outside of the county, near Orangeville and Shelburne, are also included in the study area.

“We are very happy with today’s announcement,” Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition executive director Margaret Prophet said. “(But) two-thirds of the shoreline of Lake Simcoe are not included in the study area. This should no longer be a conversation about if we should protect our water, but when. This is a common resource that we all depend on.”

She said the changes proposed would protect “threatened” drinking water sources for 1.25 million people.

The province notes the hydrological systems under consideration provide high-quality drinking water. They also manage wastewater, sustain plants and animals and support climate change mitigation by reducing flood risks. They are also vital for the agricultural sector.

Currently, the Greenbelt protects about 810,000 hectares of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands and watersheds. About 10,000 hectares were added in 2017, including 21 new urban river valleys.

The Horseshoe’s population is expected to reach 13.5 million by 2041 and it’s one of the fastest growing regions in North America.

“Our lakes, rivers and wetlands are essential to the high quality of life enjoyed by people living in the Horseshoe’s outer ring — today and in the future,” Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro said in a press release. “We all have an important role to play in preserving these vital water resources.”

The coalition, which consists of about 30 local groups such as AWARE Simcoe, Brereton Field Naturalists, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, Eco-Spark, Innisfil District Association, Living Green Barrie, Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association and Ontario Farmland Preservation, was established in 2015. Its mandate is to protect water, natural heritage and farmland.

“This should be seen as a major step to ensure farm and farmer viability, as well as food security, in the province,” Ontario Farmland Trust chair Bernard Pope said. “The area is too small. My proposal is to Greenbelt more than less.”

Springwater Mayor Bill French said public consultation will take place over the next 90 days.

“We need green infrastructure,” he said. “It’s a lot cheaper to have 50 acres of natural absorption after a rainfall instead of a $5 million stormwater management pond. I see it as a positive. We can’t pave over everything. It’s a really good start.”

The province will accept comments online, through its environmental registry or at an open house planned in early 2018. For more information, or to provide feedback, visit mah.gov.on.ca.

Rivers and wetlands in Dufferin, Simcoe County could join Greenbelt

The Canadian Press

Ontario is looking for public input on protecting water resources when it comes to expanding a protected area known as the Greenbelt.

It is currently about 810,000 hectares of protected land — including farmland and forests — that borders the Greater Golden Horseshoe area that surrounds Lake Ontario.

The government says the Greenbelt is also home to more than nine million people, but is experiencing significant growth and pressure from urban development.

Ontario is seeking public consultation on seven areas whose water the province deems most in need of protection, including moraines, cold water streams and wetlands in the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

About 10,000 hectares were added to the Greenbelt this year, which the government says include 21 new urban river valleys and associated coastal wetland areas that connect to Lake Ontario.

People can send feedback to the government on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs website or the province’s environmental registry by March 7.

The government says the study area isn’t a proposed new Greenbelt boundary.

The seven areas are:

-The Waterloo and Paris/Galt moraine complex in Waterloo Region, Brant and Wellington counties.
-The Orangeville Moraine in Wellington and Dufferin counties.
-Several small moraines, including the Gibraltar and Singhampton moraines, along the brow of the Niagara Escarpment in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
-The Oro Moraine in northeast Simcoe County, west of Orillia and Lake Couchiching.
-The Nottawasaga River corridor, including the Minesing Wetland, in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
-The coldwater streams and wetlands west of Minesing in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
-The coldwater streams, wetlands, and sand and gravel areas in southeast Simcoe County.and and gravel areas in southeast Simcoe County.

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