Thursday, May 10, 2007

2006 Don Progress Report Released

Don Progress Report, 2006

Every three years for the past 10 years The Don Watershed Regeneration Council of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority has created a report card on the Don Watershed
  • 1997: Forty Steps to a New Don
  • 2000: A Time for Bold Steps
  • 2003: Breathing New Life into the Don

At the Paddle the Don Day this weekend, they released the 2006 Progress report called "Forging a New Deal for the Don". It follows a different format than previous reports in that there appears to be no ongoing comparison with past experience.

Personally, I am disappointed with the new format. The original "40 steps" report described 40 different areas of the watershed that needed to be improved from water quality and natural habitat to community participation and education. In the report card format it is easy to compare past performance to the present situation. The 2003 report even graded 18 of the categories. The list included A = 0; B = 1; C = 6; D = 10; F = 1. The B was for public perception and the F was for water flow patterns.

The 2006 report has done away with that format and focuses on the successes. You have to look very hard for any talk of problem areas or challenges and there is no mention of any failures.

While all of the reports have been short on data, at least the previous reports had some summaries. The previous reports had up, sideways, or down arrows to indicate trends. The 2006 report has none. The new report lists all sorts of new and interesting programs such as road salt management, pesticide by-laws, the naturalization of the Don Mouth. What the report doesn't tell you is how effective they are. For example, the report lauds Toronto's new pesticide bylaw and mentions what Vaughan, Markham, and Richmond Hill are doing. While spraying in the municipalities to the north has been reduced on city property it says that they are only promoting voluntary efforts on residents. Given Toronto's experience with voluntary reduction we all know how effective that will be but you won't find that out from this report. There is also no mention of whether pesticide levels are changing in the river.

I discussed the new format with a member of the Don Council. The reason for the removal of the comparison is that they were not completely sure about the accuracy of the data. Thus they decided to remove that part. I would rather they make a best guess rather than remove that component of the report because it looks like they are trying to hide something.

While the report is an interesting read it is definitely a poor succession to the previous three reports. I only hope that the 2010 report will be better.

P.S. The TRCA has been placing copies of past report cards on their website. Currently the 2006 Progress Report is not available. When I see it, I'll let you know.

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