Province Proposes to Rescue Huronia Through Greenbelt Expansion
“Protecting Water for Future Generations” warns that increased storm water discharges created by urbanization “adds sediment to streams that can negatively impact fish and other aquatic species” and also “increase water temperature, affecting the survival of fish species such as brook trout that need cold water”. It stresses that Brook Trout will not survive in warmer water created through the ecological degradation associated with urbanization.Fighting hard to protect local watersThe Mohawk elder of the Turtle Clan Danny Beaton has spent much of his recent life in defending what he terms the Peacemaker’s World. It is the sacred landscape which nurtured the founder of the League of Peace, the Peacemaker. Usually called Huronia, in memory of the people whose remarkable leader founded the League, it is dominated by the watershed of the Nottawasaga River.The cold water Nottawasaga fed by the aquifers that provide the world’s cleanest waters, support a thriving population of Brook Trout. It is a key ecological indicator species for most of southern Ontario. This species vanishes when watersheds become subjected to urbanization. The Nottawasaga future as a healthy cold water fishery may be ensured by a proposed expansion to the Greenbelt now undergoing a 90 day public consultation. Beaton went to prison for three days as a consequence of his leadership in a nonviolent blockade that stopped an an attempt to excavate a garbage dump known as Dump Site 41 on top of a critical aquifer from which the world’s purest water flows. The proposed dump near Elmvale, was close to the largest Huron settlement recorded by archaeologists.Beaton also played a significant role in a year long occupation of Springwater Provincial Park, a former tree nursery, which was a cradle for ecological restoration in Huronia. Its surging spring waters in the past provided an important staging area for the recovery of a once endangered species, the Trumpeter Swan. Photo of Trumpeter SwanWe were able to view some of the spectacular nature of the threatened landscape following the end of a five day march from Toronto to the site of the proposed Dufferin County mega quarry. A leader called Smiling Yogi, took us to a White Cedar shaded Brook Trout stream through which was threatened with de-watering by the quarry. We were awed to see Brook Trout leap through the stream’s sparkling fast running cold waters, laced with riffles, runs and pools. New Greenbelt policy proposal: “Protecting Water for Future Generations”Protecting these waters is the key focus of a discussion document by the provincial government. It is termed “Protecting water for future generations.” As summarized by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable Bill Mauro, the discussion paper provides “scientific, technical and land use planning analysis” of the “greatest concentration of water features associated with urban growth.””Protecting Water for Future Generations” has a good summary of how sprawl threatens southern Ontario waters. It notes that, “Urbanization threatens the longtime health of hydrological systems throughout the region. Urban development impacts water resources in several ways. Water cannot flow through hard and impermeable surfaces such as roads, buildings and other paved or concrete areas and often collections as surface runoff in drains and storm sewers. As a result, more water flows directly into streams and lakes, and less water seeps into the soil to recharge aquifers for drinking water and support ecological processes.”One of the important ecological processes are to supply the groundwater that feeds cold water streams. They frequently at seepage points, are lined with watercress. Diverse insect populations, most notably Stone flies, Walter Penny’s, Mayfly and Caddisfly, also thrive in cold water stream environments.”Protecting Water” warns that increased storm water discharges created by urbanization “adds sediment to streams that can negatively impact fish and other aquatic species” and also “increase water temperature, affecting the survival of fish species such as brook trout that need cold water.” It stresses that Brook Trout “Will not survive in warmer water” created through the ecological degradation associated with urbanization.Five of the seven areas proposed for Greenbelt expansion are within Huronia, in the regional governments known as Dufferin and Simcoe Counties. Two are on the fringes of Huronia. One of these, the Escarpment Area Moraines, the discussion paper explains, “provide base flow to streams flowing from the Niagara Escarpment. They are critical for groundwater that supplies communities” such as Shelburne, Organgeville, Fergus and Guelph with drinking water. Another is the Oro Moraine, located west of Orillia and Lake Couchiching. “Protecting Water” notes that it is “composed primarily of highly permeable sand and gravel and is a significant groundwater recharge area.”Three of the proposed Greenbelt expansion areas are in the heart of Huronia. One is called the Nottawasaga River Corridor. Among the critical goals of these expansions is to protect the Minesing Wetlands, an important wildlife refuge for herons, Trumpeter Swans, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly and the endangered Sturgeon from polluted storm water from Midhurst.Photo of Nottawasaga River obtained from NVCA website.What can you do:It is remarkably easy to read the snappy to the point discussion paper and to make comments in time for the March 7, 2018 deadline. Both the discussion paper and a feedback form are on the website of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Comments can also be made through the registry of the Environmental Bill of Rights. Comments can also be made through email to protectingwater@Ontario.ca. This article was written by Dr. John Bacher, Greenbelt Campaign leader at Sierra Club Ontario, and a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS).Map showing geographic location of Huronia was obtained from Ontario Nature website.