Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) has joined counterparts in Toronto speaking out against the provincial government’s More Homes Built Faster Act tabled inv the legislature on Oct. 25, 2022.
Acknowledging that the bill aims to reduce development planning process and fees to address housing affordability issues across the province, the NVCA says proposed changes jeopardize the province’s goals to protect lives and properties from natural hazards, result in longer response times and increased costs to homes.
“The NVCA board of directors agree that there is a housing and affordability issue in the Nottawasaga watershed and across the province and we’re fully supportive of the province to build 1.5 million homes,” said Mariane McLeod, chair of the NVCA board of directors. “In building these homes, we continue to look towards our local conservation authority to keep our residents’ lives and properties protected from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion.
“One way to do that is to allow wetlands to do their job — flood control, water filtering, groundwater recharge and discharge and provide wildlife habitat.”
Wetlands are natural areas that absorb and slow floodwaters when there is a lot of rain or snowmelt, which helps to alleviate property damage and can even save lives. In the face of climate change, these wetlands are ever more important as we experience more extreme storm events.
Under the current wetland evaluation system, the Nottawasaga watershed is home to the internationally significant Minesing Wetlands, 33 provincially significant wetlands (PSW), 34 important but non-provincially significant wetlands and several of the unevaluated wetlands that would likely become provincially significant if they were evaluated. If the new legislation is passed, the evaluation score of the Minesing Wetlands will be greatly diminished, and many wetlands, including the Mad River portion of the complex, will not meet PSW status.
“The proposed changes are signalling that municipalities will be responsible for protecting people and property from natural hazards and the evaluation of wetlands,” continued McLeod. “Conservation authorities work on a watershed basis. If municipalities are directed to take on this task, we would need to consider how development in one municipality impacts the ones adjacent or downstream of them. We just don’t have the staff or expertise in water resources engineering, environmental planning and regulatory compliance for the Conservation Authorities Act to do that. We need to keep all hazard-related responsibilities with NVCA.”
Additional proposed changes include freezing or eliminating user-pay fees for developers and looking at conservation authority lands as potential areas for housing development.
The NVCA board executives are looking forward to the reestablishment of the multi-stakeholder conservation authorities working group, formed to help guide the province in its implementation of the last round of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.