Thursday, March 20, 2014

Help Protect the Shouldice Wetlands and the Glen - A Letter from Peggy Hutchison

An urgent request for financial support: Please help the community complete an important project, Protecting the Shouldice Wetlands and the Glen. This important natural heritage area on the Bruce Peninsula, 15 km northwest of Owen Sound, is being encroached upon by both an expanded quarry operation and a new quarry application immediately across the road from the existing one.

The community is in need of $60,000 to fund essential hydrogeological and other expertise for the related Environmental Review Tribunal and Ontario Municipal Board hearings on the applications.
In 2005 an application was made to the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) to amend its plan to allow a new quarry to remove aggregate below the water table right next to the Shouldice Wetland in Keppel Township, northwest of Owen Sound. The Keppel Quarry has operated across the road since 1988 with probable impacts on water levels in The Glen. The new quarry proposes to go even deeper below the water table and threatens not only the Shouldice Wetland, and Park Head Creek, but possibly The Glen and the Indian River. A 1974 report on this area described it as one of the richest in diversity of species on the whole Niagara Escarpment.

Many groups and individuals wrote to the NEC raising numerous concerns about the new quarry. Some changes have been made to the application – the quarry is smaller and is a bit further from the wetlands. However, there are still many risks to water quality and quantity, particularly because this quarry is so far below the water table and is located in a karstic geological environment.

GABP does not normally get involved in opposing applications, but in this case many of our allies and friends asked us to assist, including our own past-Director, Mac Kirk, the then- president of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, Lorraine Brown, the late Ed Shouldice and his son, Dennis. Other groups opposing the application included Bruce Peninsula Environmental Group, Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario Nature, and Saugeen Field Naturalists. Many residents met in the community of Shouldice and a steering committee was formed. GABP advised that, without the expert advice of a hydrogeologist, there would be no way the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) or the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) could render an informed Decision. Everyone agreed that made sense and GABP became a party to the hearings. We took the approach that we were not opposing the quarry, but protecting the wetlands.

Eight years later, in May 2013, after several OMB pre-hearings , two ERT hearings, and two mediated settlements, we have two important Decisions in our favour.

On the existing quarry, some of the new conditions include: 
1. a requirement to test waste water to a standard that protects fish, a higher standard than for human consumption; 
2. establishment of a Citizens’ Liaison Committee (CLC), which will oversee these tests, which must be completed within 30 days of      the most sensitive times of the year; 
3. removal of the asphalt in the existing quarry by December, 2014; and 
4. permission for Niagara Escarpment Commission to enter the site with whatever experts they invite whenever necessary.

The March 9, 2012 ERT Decision with revised conditions can be found at www.ert.gov.on.ca Case No. 11-196.

On the proposed quarry: 
1. there will be no asphalt or redi-mix plant, 
2. the operational plan has been revised to reflect concerns of the hydrogeologists, pending monitoring over the life of the initial operations, and 
3. the water quality monitoring protocol, established and already under way in the existing quarry, should be extended to include the new quarry.

I say “should” because we are now preparing for the final phase of this project, the OMB hearing on the new quarry Licence. This is where the rubber hits the road as we negotiate an Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) and monitoring program which will respond to impacts on water levels and quality in the wetlands. We also must ensure the CLC will be more than just window dressing, and that its terms of reference will enable it to effectively protect the wetlands in the event of adverse water impacts.

This is where we need your help. To pay for our water experts requires about $60,000. These fees, negotiated by GABP on behalf of the community, are a tenth of what some groups have paid to unsuccessfully oppose applications. We have already achieved many conditions to protect the wetlands. Our hydrogeologist, Hunter & Associates, has recreated a profile of the groundwater since before the existing quarry and will be able to advise us on how monitoring should proceed.

The hearing begins at 11:00 am on Monday, April 7, 2014 at the Shallow Lake Community Centre Auditorium in Shallow Lake, west of Owen Sound. The OMB has set aside 30 hearing days – the issues are outlined in the Procedural Order included with the February 6, 2014, Decision. All pre-hearing Decisions can be found at www.omb.gov.on.ca File No. MM090013.

To retain our water experts, we need to be certain we can pay them.
I have donated $500 and am pledging $50 per month for the next 10 months. I am asking that you give us whatever financial donation you can or spread out over this year, if you wish. Also, I ask that you approach friends who we may not have thought of and who you know are interested in protecting the natural heritage of the Niagara Escarpment.

Cheques should be made out to GABP (Grey Association for Better Planning) and clearly indicated for the Keppel Quarry fund. We are working on setting up a “pay pal” mechanism.

Meanwhile, we ask that you use Snail-mail and mail before the stamp price goes up at the end of March. Mail to: GABP, Box 312, Flesherton, ON N0C 1E0

If you have any questions or suggestions, please phone me at home at 519-922-2033 or email me at mhutchis1000@gmail.com. and put Friends of Shouldice Wetlands in the subject line.

I have also retained the website I set up last year www.Walk4Wetlands.ca where I will post copies of the Decisions, our hydrogeological reports and data, and an ongoing report of our fundraising efforts and the hearing progress. Right now, you can see the photographs of some of the species in the wetlands, prepared by Dennis Shouldice.

This project has had many twists and turns and we have learned a lot. Most important, we have met many people who have worked very hard to protect a unique and beautiful part of our Province. I hope we can have a celebration of some kind at the end of all this. Your financial support now will help make this happen..

I have a photograph by my kitchen phone that celebrated local forester and naturalist, Mac Kirk, took in the mid-1960s of Indian Falls. He was instrumental in securing the lands on which the falls and associated wetlands lie. Now, it’s our turn to step to the plate to protect the water that’s the very life of the river and the wetlands. Thank you for bearing with me. I hope you can help us complete this project.

Sincerely, 
Peggy Hutchison 
On behalf of GABP


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