NPCA Board Moves to Support Designations for Protecting Provincially Significant Wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest

Signs like this, held by citizens protesting development plans at Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, became common over the past three years.

-Rich Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario is Target of $1.5-Billion Urban Development Proposal

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted July 18th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

What a difference a new board of directors at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority can make.

Three years after a former Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) board was so agreeable to a developer using something called “biodiversity offsetting” to potentially build over provincially significant wetlands (PSWs) in Niagara Falls’ Thundering Waters Forest, the Conservation Authority’s current board is taking quite a different tact.

A look at wetlands inside Thundering Waters Forest.in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Not only is there no mention of biodiversity offsetting in any discussion of these wetlands, the NPCA’s current board has decided to express its support for the PSW designations the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) now has on them.

It is a position that may not sit well with those who continue to support an estimated $1.5-billion proposal for urban development in a Thundering Waters Forest that is rich with wetlands. It may be received as good news though for citizens who have been fighting for more than three years now to save these sprawling green lands in the southwest end of Niagara Falls from any development at all.

Brad Clark, a Hamilton city councillor and one of that ciity’s representatives on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board, tabled a motion for a letter of support for the current protective designations for wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest. The NPCA board passed the motion this July 17th.

At a full meeting of the NPCA’s board of directors this July 17th, board members voted to send a letter to Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski, communicating the Conservation Authority’s support for leaving designations his ministry now has on provincially significant wetlands in Thundering Waters as they are, and not possibly lowering the designation of PSWs in ways that could very well leave them open to urban development.

A motion for Niagara’s Conservation Authority to support the current PSW designations for wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest was tabled by board member and Hamilton City Councillor Brad Clark and seconded by another Hamilton City Councillor and board member Brenda Johnson, after the board heard this July 17th from NPCA staff that the developer has apparently approached the ministry to see if at least some of the PSW designations could be re-evaluated.

The China-based developer, GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd., purchased the forested area off Oldfield Road in Niagara Falls more than a decade ago from local interests. It  has been proposing to develop up to about a quarter of its 484 acres with what it now calls a “Riverfront Community” that would feature a mixture of residential and commercial uses.

There is a total of about 280 acres of wetlands on the land and more than three years ago GR was looking to agencies at the provincial and regional level in Niagara to support using something called biodiversity offsetting to allow the covering over of wetlands in Thundering Waters and the reconstruction of wetlands like them somewhere else.

The NPCA board at the time, with then St. Catharines regional councillor Bruce Timms serving as the board’s chair and then NPCA CAO Carmen D’Angelo (later sitting for about two years as C AOs at Niagara Region), supported the biodiversity offsetting idea, and in January of 2016, more than 200 Niagara area residents packed a meeting at the Balls Falls Centre for Conservation to express their opposition to it.

The old NPCA board’s support for biodiversity offsetting as a way to make urban development work in the Thundering Waters Forest was met with strong opposition from Niagara area residents.

As the biodiversity offsetting controversy raged on, field staff at the MNRF completed another study of wetlands on the Thundering Waters property. The results of the study led to a larger acreage of wetlands being designated as PSWs – a development that has reportedly frustrated GR and its supporters, and has had them asking the ministry to re-evaluate the more protective designations.

“A large developer can lobby Queen’s Park to have a designation wiped out at any time? That is disconcerting,” said John Metcalfe, a new member of the NPCA board from Haldimand County following a discussion this July 17th on the status of the Thundering Waters issue. “We as a board have to stand up and tell Natural Resources at Queen’s Park that we are not in favour of picking and choosing who gets to designate development when and where over wetlands.”

Clark said the letter the NPCA is sending to the Ontario Natural Resources Minister should make it clear that the current PSW designations at Thundering Waters should be left in place.

Another look at wetlands inside Thundering Waters Forest

We should, as a board, be on the record very clearly to the minister that this is becoming a political issue” and the designation of the wetlands should remain based on science.

Copies of the NPCA’s letter to the minister will also be sent to other parties, including the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara Region, Haldimand County and the City of Hamilton.

For all readers out there, regardless of what position you make take on the Thundering Waters development proposal, it is important to keep in mind that the NPCA can only serve as a commenting agency on this proposal. It does not have final say over the designation of the wetlands, or on whether or not the proposal is approved.

Niagara At Large will continue following this issue and providing updates to our readers.

Stay tuned.

To listen to the NPCA board’s July 17th discussion on this, click on the screen below and move the bar at the bottom of the screen to 117 minutes into the board meeting –

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the bernie sanders quote below.

“A politician thinks of the next election. a leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

5 responses to “NPCA Board Moves to Support Designations for Protecting Provincially Significant Wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest

  1. Gail Benjafield

    Thanks for the clarification as to what the NPCA can and cannot do. For those of us who have stayed with this from the beginning, writing letters to our elected reps and more, and especially to committed individuals like Ed Smith, and to you, Doug, my thanks.

    I am aware that not everyone will agree. But I will say that this whole series of events and decisions has been draining for so many. Would that it were over.

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  2. Wow – just WOW!! I missed being present at the NPCA Board meeting yesterday and am so grateful to Doug Draper for this heartening news!! ❤️ Thank you too to Brad Clark, a Hamilton city councillor and one of that city’s representatives on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board, who tabled a motion for a letter of support for the current protective designations for wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest. and seconded by another Hamilton City Councillor and board member Brenda Johnson, after the board heard this July 17th from NPCA staff that the developer has apparently approached the ministry to see if at least some of the PSW designations could be re-evaluated

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  3. Kudos to the new members of the NPCA! And, I think we also owe a huge thank you to John Bacher, who singlehandedly, with help from a few wise friends, took the Thundering Waters case to the Local Planning Appeal Board, where it is being heard now. This dedication to nature and prime farmland was also shown in his strong work at the OMB to help protect hundreds of acres of grape lands in Niagara Falls in 2015 and an earlier valiant attempt to protect 800 acres farmland and natural areas in Fort Erie.

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  4. A flawed process all the way along. The mayor’s initial trip without the Councils approval. The NPCA addressing biodiversity offsetting is a strange consideration. Perhaps a reflection of the council members nor having Conservation as a priority. The justifications of the NF City Council in various ways were only to placate the developer and protecting the unique environment was only if it fitted in so to speak. The issues of opposition have been widely mentioned but to many people sadly Thundering Waters is a golf course only.

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  5. Conservation Authorities are Ontario’s second largest land owners.
    Let that sink in !
    Land confiscation under the guise of “protecting wetlands” even if it’s your own personal property!
    WAKE UP FOLKS.

    Like

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