Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Road and Trail Closings

Road Closures in West Don Lands

In February, the TRCA and the city will start work on the flood control berm on the west side of the Lower Don River. This will mean that some roads will be closed in the West Don Lands area.

It will also mean that the Lower Don Trail will be closed between Queen St and Lakeshore Blvd. The trail will be closed for more than year with reopening slated for Spring 2007. When it does reopen, it will create a new linkage underneath the railway line just north of the big railway bridge. This will lead into the new park created where the berm will be built in the West Don Lands. Also, the tunnel that currently goes underneath said railway bridge, the one that goes up and down a short steep hill will be replaced by an at grade tunnel. This should make travel along this stretch alot easier.

Unfortunately the trail won't be as convenient as it used to be. Southerly access will be from the Queen St stairs rather than the Lakeshore Trail. For those adventurous folk there is always the hole in the fence just north of Queen St. However I don't recommend this as you need to cross a busy railway line. Remember, train time is any time.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Don Mouth History Lesson

There has been considerable discussion about where the mouth of the Don used to be and what should be done with it today. This is all part of the Don Mouth EA process. In a recent email discussion, many thoughts about the early history were discussed but the most interesting one comes from Michael Moir, an archivist working at York University. I am reprinting his remarks here.

"The Don River has emptied into the Inner Harbour ever since Joseph Bouchette did the first survey of Toronto Harbour in 1792 (a copy of this plan is available at the City of Toronto Archives). I am not a hydrologist, but my hunch, after reading Sandford Fleming's articles on the formation of the harbour published in the Canadian Journal during the 1850s, is that the lake currents, which travel from the east to the west across Toronto's waterfront, eroded soil from the Scarborough Bluffs. As the current slowed when it ran into the outfall of the Don, silt was deposited over time, forming the 1,300-acre marshland known as Ashbridge's Bay and the sandbar that eventually became the Toronto Islands.

The Don emptied into the naturally formed harbour until the late 19th century, when channelization of the lower river brought the mouth of the river south into Ashbridge's Bay. Unfortunately, human sewage and cattle manure from the byres of Gooderham & Worts also emptied into Ashbridge's Bay, leading to much sickness. The City undertook the construction of the Coatsworth Cut and Keating's Channel in the 1890s in order to create water flow through Ashbridge's Bay so that the human and animal waste could be diluted or swept into the waters of Toronto Harbour.

When the Toronto Harbour Commissioners (THC) undertook the development of waterfront in 1912, the initial plans of its engineers called for a return of the Don to more or less the original course of its mouth as it entered Toronto Harbour. This approach meant that the river would have been diverted southwest from a point along the north-south section of the channel, which would have encroached upon the refinery of the British American Oil Company (located on the north side of Keating's Channel, west of the existing mouth of the Don). Although the THC had powers of expropriation, it did not use them in this instance, perhaps because of the costs involved. The THC changed its plans and decided to follow the route of the existing north-south channel, construct concrete dock walls along Keating Channel, and fill in the waterway lying east of the elbow formed at the junction of the Don and the Keating Channel.

Technical drawings and textual files regarding this planning process can be found among the THC archives currently administered by the Toronto Port Authority at 60 Harbour Street. There are no public hours to access this collection, and you would have to contact Mary Perisic, Manager of Administration at the TPA, to find and use this material. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

How Will the Federal Election Affect the Don?

While there are many opinions as to how things will go on Jan. 23, I haven't heard any discussion about how the result will affect the Don River. That's mostly because there is no direct connection between Federal politics and the Don River environment. Most of the legislation affecting the river, the valley, the parkland, the infrastructure, is either municipally or provincially regulated. Most of the land is owned by either the TRCA or the city. The only Federally owned property I know about is a small chunk of land in the Don Mouth area. Most of the funding is provincial or municipal. The only direct funding is EcoAction which is administered by the Federal Ministry of the Environment.

Since there is no direct connection that leaves only indirect effects. For example, the city is in a bind over funding for TTC capital improvements, ie. new buses, trains, and streetcars. They need money from the provincial and federal governments for the bulk of this money. A deal worked out between the city and the Feds last year did see some money for new buses. As long as the Feds continue to supply money for these kinds of things, it could mean that the city is more willing to direct other funds towards things like wet weather flow plan programs.

Another pot of federal money may be in jeopardy depending on what happens tomorrow. Currently the city receives 1.5 million dollars to administer the Streets to Homes program. This is a very worthwhile program that provides support for homeless people to move into permanent homes. We recently had a discussion with them about targeting homeless people setup in the Don, a problem that has long been neglected. Whoever wins tomorrow may have different ideas about renewing these funds.

So what will be the best result for the Don? I don't want to push any particular political agenda but I think the best result will be a minority Liberal or Conservative government with either the NDP or the Greens holding the balance of power. That way the pro-environment parties can hold the governing party's feet to the fire to ensure that environmental and social issues are properly addressed. Any trickle down affect will likely be good for the Don.

So make sure you vote tomorrow because we need people to fight for the Don, a forgotten issue in this election. If only trees could vote...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Stewardship Forum 2006

I just received this notice so I am displaying it here verbatim. Whether you run a stewardship program or are a volunteer, you will find this workshop useful. Registration is free, on a first come, first served basis. I have attended some of the previous workshops and I usually find some aspect of them interesting.

7th Annual Stewardship Forum presents:


Examine the relationship between our health
and the natural environment

Saturday February 11, 2006
9:00am – 3:00pm
Kortright Centre for Conservation


Dr. John Ferguson - What Sustains Sustainability?

Breakout Sessions (sign-up at event)

Community Water Protection
Sustainable Recreation
Leadership in Conservation
River Meanders Hike
Sustainable Agriculture
Well-Being Walk
Indigenous Environmental Education
Sustainable Trail Use

Post-event Tour of the Earth Rangers Centre
(Located near the Kortright Centre)

The Earth Rangers Centre is one of the most energy-efficient buildings
in Canada and features Canada’s first wildlife hospital.


416-392-LEAF or email greentoronto@toronto.ca
Provide the following information:

· Name * Phone Number * Email Address
· Transportation: Shuttle bus from Downsview Subway Station?
If driving, directions available at www.kortright.org
· Display: Would you like to bring your organization’s display?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

August Flood

I made a number of postings about the flooding that occurred last August:

Flooding in Taylor Creek Park

High but not that high

The good and the bad

While I took some nice pictures of the damage, my only regret was that I wasn't there when it happened. I just received a note from a fellow photographer who has posted a set of photos that were taken during the flooding in Taylor Creek. The photos graphically reveal how high the water was. There are also some more photos of the aftermath along Wilket Creek and in Edwards Gardens. Thanks to JimR for the link.

Burke Brook EA

When I was at the Don Mouth EA meeting, I bumped into Bill Snodgrass who is the person leading up the Burke Brook Class EA. He filled me in on the details. Apparently the main purpose of the study is a proposal to build a fish ladder just east of Bayview Ave. There is a 2 metre drop where the brook pours out of a culvert which makes it impossible for fish to get past.

They will also study erosion issues along the open portions of the creek which exist all the way over to Glenview Senior Public School where it disappears for good. The headwaters of the creek use to start in the Downsview area north of Wilson Avenue near Wilson Heights. This is well documented on the Lost Rivers website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Notes from the EA front lines, Part II

I attended another public forum (see EA Part I) in the Don Mouth Naturalization Environmental Assessment. The EA process is a rather long affair and this one is slated to continue until 2008. The stage they are at now is drafting the terms of reference. Last fall they were collecting ideas for possible alternatives. What they have done so far is short list the alternatives. They have sensibly discarded four alternatives which were very impractical and are concentrating their efforts on three main alternatives. Actually there are four alternatives but the #1 is do nothing which is requirement for an EA. I will summarize the other three alternatives – the do something proposals.

Alternative #2: Bring Back the Don Idea

This proposal was originally created by the Task Force to Bring Back the Don as early as 1991. The plan is to have the riverbed shifted westward just south of the Lakeshore railway line. It would be routed through a section of land bordered by the DVP, Lakeshore Blvd East, Cherry St and the railway tracks. This land is collectively known as 480 Lakeshore. Adjacent to the river would be added riparian marshes. The river mouth would empty into the inner harbour at about the same place where the Keating Channel now ends. The channel would be filled in. Depending on design issues, there might be room for a lacustrine marsh in the north east corner of the harbour.

Alternative #3: Dalton Shipway's Idea

I call it this because this has been Dalton's pet idea for as long as I have been around. This plan would close the Keating Channel and construct a new channel straight south to join up with the Turning Basin channel between Commissioners and Unwin. The land in 480 Lakeshore would not be used.

Alternative #4: Combo Plan

This is just a combination of alternatives #2 and #3.

Here's why alternative #2 is the better plan. One of the criteria for developing this plan is flood protection of the land east of the Don River. During Hurricane Hazel parts of the city south of Queen St. as far east as Greenwood were flooded up to 1 metre deep. In order to alleviate that, the Don Mouth project has to address it. Alternative #2 allows for a small berm to be built between the river and the DVP, north of Lakeshore Blvd. This room is not available in alternatives 3 & 4.

Alternative #2 allows for a small but usable gradient between the railway bridge and the mouth. This will create a slow but moving river. Digging a channel straight south is no more useful then the current Keating Channel. It's a no flow situation since this channel will be at the same level as the lake.

One darkly humorous term used in the the presentation was “sustainability framework”. This is something the Waterfront Revitalization folks thought up and it deals with (among other things) contaminated soil cleanup. It has nothing to do with environmental sustainability and everything to do with risk management. For example there is more soil to cleanup in alternative #2 so the SF rating is high. There is less soil to cleanup in alternative #3 so its SF is low. This gives a skewed higher rating to alternative #3, something which I criticized in my comments.

Regardless of my rant, the process moves on. We just have to keep plugging away to ensure that what is actually done in the end is the right thing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Environmental Assessments

For a number of reasons, there is news about three different Environmental Assessments that concern the Don. There are two types of EAs: a full EA and a class EA. The full EA lasts anywhere from 1-3 years and follows a stringent set of rules that requires public engagement and a process to study all possible alternatives. The class EA is more narrow in focus and is used to study specific issues. Public consultation is more limited. Both types are currently being used for Don Valley issues.

Snow dump site class EA completion notice (PDF)

Snow Dump Conceptual Design

The city has 9 snow dump sites of which 2 are located in the lower Don, one north of Pottery Road and the other on the south side of the Bayview/Bloor offramp. This Class EA studied design options for snow dump sites to mitigate and treat meltwater which is heavily polluted with salt, oil, grease and other things scraped off winter roads. Currently the meltwater flows untreated from these two sites directly into the Don river.

The Task Force position is that the Don valley is the wrong place for snow dumps and should be closed. The city's position is that there are very few places left in the city to dump snow. Also they need capacity equivalent to 150,000 truck loads of snow. This is what was used to clear the snow during that memorable snowstorm a few years ago when Emperor Mel called in the army because he got scared. The city went a little overboard back then on snow clearing and could have left a lot more snow on the streets.

The result of that fiasco is that we are stuck with snow dumps in the Don. Rather than try and remove them entirely we have asked them not to use the Pottery Road site and also not to spend any money on mitigation measures there, our thinking goes if they do spend money on making it a better snow dump site will only encourage the city to start using it.

Sherwood Creek - Burke Brooke Fish Passage Restoration Class Environmental Assessment

This EA is news to me. Apparently the city is studying the above ground portion of this small creek for creation of fish habitat. The creek which runs through Sherwood Park has no fish to speak of, at least none that I have ever seen. It runs through a long culvert underneath Bayview Avenue and the portion north of Blythwood Avenue is lined with concrete. There is also at least one major storm water outfall so when it does rain this stream becomes a torrent. So the prospects for long term fish habitat don't look promising.

Still, the idea that somebody is studying this does hold out some slim hope for the future. The Task Force did designate part of this stream for possible habitat restoration. The city website does mention at least one public meeting to be held in 2006. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

Mouth of the Don River Environmental Assessment

This is a reminder that the next round of public meetings begins this week on Tuesday January 10, 6:00 PM at the Toronto Fire Academy, 895 Eastern Ave. Click on the title to get directions. This project is a full environmental assessment. It has been ongoing since May 2005 and will likely continue through all of 2006.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

City Documents: Jan 2006, Part I

January 2006 looks to be a busy committee month. I will be posting at least two sets of documents because the Works Committee and Planning/Transportation agenda have been posted but not the Community Council agenda which are scheduled for later in the month. Also a couple of documents have been listed but not posted. Here's what's available now:

Planning & Transportation Committee (Jan. 9)

6. Preventing Migratory Bird Deaths Resulting from Collision with Buildings
A policy paper on what can be done to reduce bird deaths from colliding with buildings.

16. “Green Building Code”: Energy Efficiency Provisions
This document isn't available yet. Sounds like a general environmental policy paper. Not directly related to the Don but interesting nonetheless.

Works Committee (Jan. 11)

18. Impacts of Further Urban Expansion in York Region on the City of Toronto in
Terms of Stormwater Quality and Quantity, Air Quality, Traffic Congestion and
Impacts on Toronto’s Infrastructure

Another indirectly related document. Of course anything that happens upstream from us will eventually affect downstream places as well.

21. Considerations for additional funding in the 2007 Capital Budget for source water
protection, tree planting and downspout disconnection

This document recommends that Toronto Water start a mandatory downspout disconnection program . It also recommends that $2 million be set aside for tree planting projects. Sounds like good news indeed, that is if it survives the current city budget debate...

23. Impacts of Accelerating the City of Toronto’s 25-Year Wet Weather Flow Management
Master Plan to a 15-Year Plan
Report not available yet. No doubt will be a cost-benefit analysis.

Community Services Committee (Jan. 12)

5. Annual Report on From the Streets into Homes: A Strategy to Assist Homeless
Persons Find Permanent Housing

This is not a committee that normally has much relevance for the valley but this report does. A rather lengthy report (52 pages), Appendix H & I are of particular relevance to the valley because they discuss the issue of "Homeless People Camping In Public Spaces". Appendix I is a list of locations where homeless people were living beneath bridges and in parks. According to the results they were quite successful in getting these individuals relocated and the living areas cleaned up. Not a comprehensive list but encouraging from the standpoint of getting people to move out of tents and into homes. Good for them and good for the valley.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

January Meetings

Spring and summer are tree planting seasons, summer is stewardship season, what happens in winter? Meetings of course! (actually we have meetings all year around, but there is nothing much else to do in the winter).

Here is a list of the meetings happening in January.

Jan 3: Policy & Planning, 6 PM, City Hall, Cmt. Room 1
Jan 9: Habitat Restoration, 6 PM, City Hall, Cmt. Room 4
Jan 18: Task Force to Bring Back the Don, 6:30 PM City Hall, Cmt. Room 4
Jan 31: Communications, 6 PM, City Hall, Cmt. Room 4

There is also a meeting on the Don Mouth Naturalization EA process being held on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 6:30 PM. This will be at the Fire Academy Building at 895 Eastern Ave. which is east of Leslie St. I plan to be there, to show the Task Force flag.

The P&P agenda for today's meeting was just sent out. I am copying it here for your information and to give you an idea as to what the team does.


1.Additions/Approval of Agenda

2.Special Policy Areas

3.Bridgepoint Health Redevelopment

4.Pottery Road Snow Dump*

5.Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands*

6.Evergreen and the Brickworks

7.Front Yard Parking*

8.Don Narrows Project*

9.Options for Homes re 220 Oak Street

10.Don Valley Homelessness/Encampments

- Don Valley Corridor Transportation Master Plan
- Earl Bales Stormwater Management Project
- Rosemount Heights Sewer EA
- EAs and Precinct Plans
- Taylor Massey Creek Water Quality
- Toronto and Region Terrestrial Natural Heritage System Strategy
- Lower Don Valley Transportation/Distributions Relocations
- WWFMP Implementation Advisory Committee
- Lake Ontario Park

12.Other Business

13.Next meeting: Tuesday, February 7, 2006, 6PM, Committee Room 2

* Priority Item

Monday, January 02, 2006

Taylor-Massey Creek 'Wikified'

I have been neglecting Don Watcher for a bit but it's for a good cause. I have been working on some articles for Wikipedia. My latest effort has been to expand the article on Taylor-Massey Creek. The previous entry was pretty short.

Wikipedia is a different format than a blog. It's supposed to be an encyclopedia. One important concept they use is called neutral point of view or NPOV. This to prevent bias from influencing a reader. For example, I was updating an article on the Oak Ridges Moraine and referred to the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust that was preserving valuable habitat. Another editor came along after I finished and changed "valuable habitat" to "wildlife habitat" and said the word "valuable" was not NPOV - which is true. To a land developer I suppose it's worthless habitat.

So please go to Wikipedia and read my article - maybe even update it! I don't pretend to have the last word on TMC. This is the beauty of the Wikipedia concept. More than one person can contribute to the same article.