NPCA Board Sends Letter Urging Province Not to Change Significant Wetland Designations for Thundering Waters Forest

Wetland-Rich Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario has been Targetted for Urban Sprawl

“It is our opinion that the PSWs (Provincially Significant Wetlands) on the (Thundering Waters) site, along with PSWs throughout our (Niagara) watershed should be protected and allowed to remain in a natural state.”                                               – from a letter sent to Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Board of Directors

A look at some of the more than 280 acres of wetlands inside Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara, Falls, Ontario. The environmentally rich area is located near the Niagara River and within the Niagara watershed.

By Doug Draper, reporter and publisher, Niagara At Large

Posted August 12th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

In a letter sent to Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski, the board of directors of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is asking the province not to remove any protective designations for significant wetlands located within the more than 190 hectares (280 acres) of Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls’ southwest end.

A computerized image of what urban development might look like on the Thunder Waters property

The letter, dated July 24th and included in the agenda package for the NPCA board’s upcoming August 14th, meeting, follows in the wake of concerns raised by some board members earlier last month that parties interested in building on parts of the Thundering Waters Forest property may be lobbying the province to have at least some protective boundaries for provincial significant wetlands (PSWs) on the property adjusted or removed completely to better accommodate plans for a multi-use urbanization project said to be worth more than $1.5 billion.

“While the Board of the NPCA does realize the Province designates and delineates Provincially Significant Wetlands, the NPCA Board of Directors is supportive of these designations and delineations, expanding wetland designations and is supportive of not removing any wetlands that have been designated as PSW,” the NPCA board told Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry in the letter signed by the board’s chair Dave Bylsma.

NPCA board Chair Dave Bylsma signs letter from board, urging province to keep current protective bounderies for provincially significant wetlands intact. File photo by Doug Draper

“With respect to the Thundering Waters (Riverfront Community) development,” says the letter, “the NPCA Board supports the current PSW boundaries on the properties involved and requests that these boundaries not have their PSW designations removed. It is our opinion that the PSWs on the site, along with PSWs throughout our watershed should be protected and allowed to remain in a natural state.”

Plans to develop about 48 hectares (about 119 acres) of the sprawling Thundering Waters Forest have put on the table by a China-backed firm called GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd which has modified them at least a couple of times over the past three or more years as citizens in the region have raised their voices against any development in the area at all.

The developer has continued to receive the support of Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, who once traveled to China to add his signature to a memorandum of understanding for the project, and a majority of others on the city’s council.

Opponents of the plan point to the fact that more than 90 hectares (280 acres) of the sprawling, more than 190 hectare (470 acre) Thundering Waters property is covered with wetlands that, contrary to what some proponents for the project claim), cannot be replicated anywhere else in the region in the foreseeable future.

Those opposing the project also stress that over the past century or so, Niagara has already lost about 90 per cent or more of its wetlands due to urban development and other human activities, and cannot afford to lose any more at a time when studies around the world say how vital wetlands play in flood management, supporting wildlife and addressing challenges related to climate change.

Members of the Indigenous community in the Niagara area gather in front of Niagara Falls City Hall three years ago in support of saving Thundering Waters Forest

The NPCA board, in its letter to Ontario Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski, made a point of outlining the importance of protecting and preserving what is left of our wetlands.

“As you are aware,” states the board’s letter, “wetlands are widely recognized as an important part of the ecosystem and are among the most productive and biologically diverse habitats in the world. They play a multi-dimensional role in the hydrologic cycle acting as a source for flood attenuation, ground water recharge and the improvement of water quality. Wetlands are an incredible source of biodiversity, offering a multitude of habitats for plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and other species and have potential to play a significant role in climate change adaption and mitigation strategies.”

“With the ever-evolving pressures of development expanding on our landscapes,” the letter continues, “wetlands continue to be threatened and removed. These losses could have substantial long-term impacts in our community.”

The mapping of the wetlands in Thundering Waters Forest was conducted by field experts for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Niagara At Large will be posting our take on the development plans for Thundering Waters Forest in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is the full text of the NPCA board’s July 24th letter to Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry JohnYakabuski,  dated July 24 –

“At the July 17, 2019 Full Authority meeting of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) Board, a motion was passed that a letter be sent to the Province by the Board of Directors, indicating its stand on Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) in relation to the Thundering Waters (now known as Riverfront Community) development.

“As you are aware, wetlands are widely recognized as an important part of the ecosystem and are among the most productive and biologically diverse habitats in the world. They play a multi-dimensional role in the hydrologic cycle acting as a source for flood attenuation, ground water recharge and the improvement of water quality. Wetlands are an incredible source of biodiversity, offering a multitude of habitats for plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and other species and have potential to play a significant role in climate change adaption and mitigation strategies.

“With the ever-evolving pressures of development expanding on our landscapes, wetlands continue to be threatened and removed. These losses could have substantial long-term impacts in our community.

“While the Board of the NPCA does realize the Province designates and delineates Provincially Significant Wetlands, the NPCA Board of Directors is supportive of these designations and delineations, expanding wetland designations and is supportive of not removing any wetlands that have been designated as PSW.

“With respect to the Thundering Waters (Riverfront Community) development, the NPCA Board supports the current PSW boundaries on the properties involved and requests that these boundaries not have their PSW designations removed. It is our opinion that the PSWs on the site, along with PSWs throughout our watershed should be protected and allowed to remain in a natural state.”

  • Signed by Chair Dave Bylsma on behalf of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation board.

To read a recent news commentary Niagara At Large posted on this issue, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/07/18/npca-board-moves-to-support-designations-for-protecting-provincially-significant-wetlands-in-thundering-waters-forest/ .

For the record, here is a screen image of the NPCA Board’s letter to the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, as sent –

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