Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority is Proving Weak on Protection What is Left of Niagara’s Wetlands
A Message from Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara – a region-wide coalition of individuals and citizen groups advocating for protecting and preserving our natural environment
Posted November 13th, 2022 on Niagara At Large
Why worry about Ford dismantling our Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) when some board members seem eager to do the job themselves.
That is the only conclusion that can be taken following (the NPCA’s recent) governance committee meeting where they recommended a policy that could result in zero buffers for some wetlands.
At issue was a section of the Authority’s proposed new policy on non-Provincially Significant (non-PSWs) Wetland buffers.
When it came to the board a few weeks ago, several board members, led by Brad Clark, expressed concerns that the buffer requirements for wetlands were not strong enough. This has also been an ongoing concern for residents who have seen wetland buffers approved by the NPCA of as little as 5 metres.
In one case, a developer made the argument that backyards of a new subdivision would be a sufficient buffer from a Provincially Significant Wetland!
So, the decision was made to refer it to the Authority’s Governance Committee.
The policy proposal that came to the governance committee was:
126.96.36.199 Buffers to Wetlands
- 1 Where development consists of a new building or structure, a new accessory building or structure, a 30 metre buffer shall be provided.)
- Notwithstanding Section 188.8.131.52 1), where the buffer is to a non-PSW larger than 2 hectares, the 30 metre buffer may be reduced to no less than 15 metres, where supported by an EIS prepared in accordance with the NPCA’s Procedural Manual.
- Notwithstanding Section 184.108.40.206 1), where the buffer is to a non-PSW less than 2 hectares, 30 metre buffer may be reduced to no less than 10 metres, where supported by an EIS prepared in accordance with the NPCA’s Procedural Manual.
And after hours of debate what the Governance Committee approved and are sending back to the board for final approval is a worse policy, one without minimum buffers that could allow for zero buffers from non-PSWs.
Governance Committee Recommendation
1) Where development is proposed adjacent to a wetland, a minimum 30 metre buffer shall be provided.
2) Notwithstanding Section 220.127.116.11 1), a reduction to a non-PSW buffer shall only be considered where: a) there is no other reasonable alternative; and b) where supported by an EIS in accordance with NPCA Procedural Manual.
Hopefully, the full board will realize this recommendation is less protective on non-PSWs than what was originally proposed and stick with the recommendation in the staff report.
A report commissioned by the NPCA from North-South Environmental on buffers noted: “There is no consistently applied buffer width to features, however the following buffer widths to regulated features are most commonly identified:
- • 15 m for warm water (Type 2 and 3 fish habitat) watercourses and intermittent streams
- • 30 m for cool/cold water (Type 1 fish habitat) watercourses and permanent streams
- • 15 m for non-Provincially Significant Wetlands
- • 30 m for Provincially Significant Wetlands and locally significant wetlands
- • 10 m – 15 m for valleylands
- • 30 m for shorelines to lakes and water bodies
Only 15% of southern Ontario’s original wetlands remain. That means all the wildlife they support have also been reduced to critical levels.
With future development threatening our remaining wetlands, including the Region’s devastating plan to widen and extend Merritt Road through Provincially Significant Wetlands and Significant Woodlands, and with the Ford government destroying wetland protections in Bill 23, the very least the NPCA board can do is to extend whatever protection they can for our remaining wetlands.
The NPCA board should reject the Governance Committee’s recommendation and put minimum buffer requirements in place for non-PSWs as originally recommended.
About Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara – Biodiversity and Climate Action Niagara (BCAN) is a collective of Niagara’s environmental groups and citizens that advocates for proven municipal best practices and policies that protect and enhance local biodiversity and combat climate change
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reducing wetland buffers is a disgrace.