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.


Anonymous said...

thanks again, donwatcher, for all your work in keeping us informed.
up until today, i had not given much thought as to the 'good'of EAs. however, i am reading The Natural Alien, Humankind and Environment. Written by Neil Evernden, it may have been his doctorate thesis. At any rate fascinating perspective on EAs and the environmental movement. In this writing he questions the whole validity of EAs and cautions their use.
"Some professionals privately admit that the best way to destroy a natural area is to designate it as a park"
He quotes John Livingston: an environmental impact assessment is" a grandiloquent fraud, a hoax, and a con, because it gives the appearance of being for the benefit of the environment while actually serving the interests of the developers.' Ecology is thus used as a tool to permit "developers" to continue to do what they have always done. The only difference is the "environmental impact is to be minimized to an acceptable level". What is minimal impact? What is acceptable impact? Acceptable to whom? Wildlife, alas, cannot be interviewed"
food for thought!

Donwatcher said...

Hi Joanne,

I haven't read Evernden's book but I will add it to my reading list. Evernden is writing about the EIA process in the US which is slightly different from the Canadian version. The problem with the Don EA is the Sword of Damocles called Hurricane Hazel that hovers over the entire project. Hazel did many good things for the Don - without her legacy the Don would likely be exclusive private property by now and no habitat. The bad part is that any revisions such as is proposed by our naturalization efforts must make the situation no worse than what Hazel did, and that is a big challenge indeed.

Having said that, the EA process is what will take us to where we want to get to, even if it seems an onerous task. Keep your chin up and focus on the end product, not the process.