By Sandra O’Connor
A Special to Niagara At Large, Posted July 5th, 2016
Niagara, Ontario – The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) has no basis in law to pursue biodiversity offsetting.
Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act states; “The objects of an authority are to establish and undertake, a program designed to further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources.”
Destroying one wetland in favour of creating another wetland is not conservation, restoration, development or management.
The Conservation Authorities’ Regulations state: “an Authority may make regulations restricting and regulating the use of water in or from wetlands and prohibiting, regulating or requiring the permission of the authority for straightening, changing, diverting or interfering in any way with a wetland”.
Again, destruction of a wetland is not included in the regulations.
The NPCA uses Ontario Regulation 155/06 under the Ontario Conservations Authorities Act to justify investigating biodiversity offsetting.
The Act states: “The Authority may grant permission for development in or on the areas described in subsection 2 (1) if, in its opinion, the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches, pollution or the conservation of land will not be affected by the development”.
None of these justifications are applicable to the biodiversity offsetting proposed at the Thundering Waters Forest location in Niagara Falls.
To make this even more unjustifiable, the NPCA has no right to do this on wetlands classified by the province as “provincially significant wetlands”, which is the case at this location in Niagara Falls.
Ontario wetlands are ranked to determine whether they should receive special protection as “provincially significant”. These areas are quite properly protected from site alteration.
The Government of Ontario website states “Regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act prohibit certain activities within wetlands”. However, the NPCA further uses its own policy creations to give them authority for what they are doing.
This is self-serving and unjustifiable.
When the province released a whitepaper considering allowing biodiversity offsetting, the NPCA sought to host a pilot project.
After first denying that they intended to support a pilot at the Thundering Waters Forest location in Niagara Falls, the NPCA eventually revealed their plan to support this.
The NPCA wants to change the Conservation Authorities Act to allow for biodiversity offsetting. Developers see the current Act as a stumbling block for development.
Be sure to give your input to the Government of Ontario on the review of the Conservation Authorities Act by September 09, 2016 to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Sandra O’Connor is a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Ontario. In her varied career she has worked at a Conservation Authority (not NPCA), the Ministry of Natural Resources, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Canadian Institute of Geomatics, among other positions. With a background in geography, environmental studies and urban planning, she is a public activist interested in the environment and her community.
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