NPCA Enforcement Actions Come Days Before City of Niagara Falls Hosts Open House Meeting on Controversial Thundering Waters Development Project
A Foreword by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper, followed by posts from the citizens group A Better Niagara and Niagara environmentalist Owen Bjorgan
Posted January 26th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
From Doug Draper –
Let me say right up front that over the past week or so, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) field staff appear to have taken actions that were both necessary and highly commendable to protect significant features of our natural heritage within the Niagara watershed.
And for that, staff at the NPCA, responsible for enforcing government legislated conservation and environmental protection rules, and for investigating possible violations of them, deserve credit from all of us who want to see what is left of our natural heritage protected and preserved for generations to come.
The actions taken by NPCA staff over the last number of days include the issuance of a stop work order, followed by the issuance of a notice of violation to the China-based development firm GR (CAN) Investment Co. Ltd for allegedly disturbing or damaging provincially significant wetlands (PSWs) and/or protected buffer zones around them.
The wetlands in question are located inside the 484-acre Thundering Waters Forest site, on the Canadian side of the Niagara River watershed in the southwest side of Niagara Falls.
For more than four years now, GR, the current owner of the Thundering Waters property, has been proposing to use at least part of property to construct a $1.5-billion mix of commercial and residential buildings – a project that continues to receive strong support from Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and a majority on his council, even as many citizens across the region continue to oppose it.
Another public meeting on the proposed development, known commercially as the Riverfront (formerly Paradise) Community project, has been scheduled for this coming Thursday, January 30th from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Gale Centre on 5152 Thorold Stone Road in Niagara Falls, and there is reason to believe that citizens will show up in large numbers.
Earlier this January, word began circulating among citizens that some heavy vehicles had been spotted on roads along the perimeter of the Thundering Waters lands and that work may have commenced on or near wetlands on the property.
This January 23rd, Niagara At Large contacted NPCA communications representatives via email, asking for a statement or official confirmation of reports posted on social media that a stop order had been issued to GR in the wake of any complaints or concerns citizens may have called in to the Conservation Authority about work taking place on the lands.
I asked for confirmation to make sure that I was on solid ground and that I was going directly to the official body involved in this matter before I posted any news or commentary on an issue of such obvious public importance.
I was told by a communications rep. that NPCA compliance staff had visited the Thundering Waters site and were reviewing “information to determine what further actions may be taken.”
But no confirmation of a stop work order was given even though, as it turned out, at least one citizen had already received an email response from an NPCA compliance supervisor that “a violation of the Niagara Region’s Tree and Forest Bylaw has occurred, and (NPCA’s Forester) has issued a stop work order.”
As a veteran journalist who spent decades covering environmental issues – many of them involving violations that wound up in the courts – I can understand why a public body may not be able to share many details with a reporter while an investigation is in progress.
But not even confirming whether or not a stop work order has been issued is baffling, to say the least – especially for an NPCA that has been working to usher in a new era of openness and transparency after two many years of shutting the media and the public out over the past decade or so.
Nevertheless, thanks to NPCA compliance officers for responding so decisively to citizens’ concerns and complaints.
And thanks to citizen watchdogs s in Niagara for sharing what information they had on what was going down at the Thundering Waters property over the past few weeks because what happens at this particular site – so rich with biodiversity – is a matter of significant public interest.
Given what a significant piece of Niagara’s natural heritage the Thundering Waters lands are, the public has a right to know.
The public has a right to know what is going on at this place and what our governments are doing to protect and preserve it.
Prior to this week’s public meeting on the GR proposal, Niagara At Large will be posting a commentary on why it is so necessary – for the good of our Niagara region and for the good of a Niagara River watershed we have shared responsibility with our American neighbour to protect and preserve for generations to come – to stop GR from moving ahead with its development plans at the Thundering Waters site.
So please stay tuned to Niagara At Large for that.
Now here are posts from the citizens group A Better Niagara and from Owen Bjorgan.
First, from A Better Niagara –
We are baffled that the NPCA wouldn’t confirm that they issued a stop work order at Thundering Waters in Niagara Falls when they actually posted a Notice of Violation at the site that says they did issue one.
The good news is that they are charging the landowner GR Can with a breach of the Conservation Act that could carry a stiffer penalty than violation of a Regional bylaw.
We would also like to point out that the City of Niagara Falls erected the large sign for the public notice of the meeting about this development (taking place from 5 to 6 p.m. Jan. 30th at the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls) in one of the property’s Provincially Significant Wetlands.
What part of the Provincial policy that states “no alteration to Provincially Significant Wetlands” didn’t they understand?
Now a recent Facebook note from Owen Bjorgan –
Did a perimeter drive today (this January 25th) – came home to post these photos and JUST learned that GR Can has officially been charged by the NPCA… See St. Catharines Standard story – https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9831185-npca-charges-chinese-firm-with-provincial-act-violations/?fbclid=iwar02tkf-nzw7mopylasg5mjwbk0t9rsgz0ylviujrfjuleozv9hvhgmyngo
For more information on issues of concern to Niagara residents from the citizens watchdog group A Better Niagara, click on – https://www.facebook.com/betterniagara/
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