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NEWS: Wetland protection could stop housing development near Ottawa

CBC reports, “Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has declared a stretch of wetlands connected to the South March Highlands in Kanata North as ‘provincially significant’, a move that could impact proposed residential developments in the area. Residential developers (KNL Developments) have plans to build 3,000 homes worth a total of about $1 billion in Kanata North. But the City of Ottawa received a letter from the ministry Sept. 16 saying the nearby Kizell Drain Wetland Complex is significant and protected by provincial standards.”

“The main concern originates in studies that show rain and storm water runoffs from proposed developments could threaten the marshes and its species, including Blandings turtles. …(The developers) had planned to use the wetlands to drain run-off from their proposed residential developments (through the Beaver Pond and Beaverbrook to the Kizell drain). …The wetlands are part of the South March Highlands and feed into Beaver Pond, where developers have been engaged in a battle with local Algonquin First Nations and other environmental groups over their proposed development.”

“The province could halt development plans at the Kizell wetlands slated to start later this fall. But the city could still choose to honour existing agreements with developers. Area Coun. Marianne Wilkinson said she is concerned about flooding, but said the city is caught in a difficult position. …City hall insiders told CBC Ottawa the plan could be set back as much as two years and cost developers millions of dollars as they attempt to find new ways of dealing with storm water runoffs.”

In January 2011, Council of Canadians issued an action alert calling on the provincial government to take action to stop this development. We noted, “The roadway will displace wetlands for the roadbed and there are concerns that the new road could decimate the Blanding’s turtles, a rare and threatened species, in the area. Wetlands are important for water quality in that they help clean pollutants from waterways. They also help absorb carbon in the soil, thereby helping to moderate climate change. (The development requires the) clear cutting of 26-hectares of forest. The housing development would surround Beaver Pond. Significantly, 10,000 year-old Algonquin artifacts, burial mounds and archaeological sites have also been found in the area.” More on that at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=8372.

In late-January, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui attended the lighting of the Sacred Fire at Beaver Pond.

In mid-February, CTV.ca reported, “Several dozen First Nations people sang songs and beat drums at the Ontario legislature on Sunday (February 13) to protest the clear-cutting of trees on Algonquin lands in Ottawa. Members of the Mohawk and Algonquin First Nations have been at the legislature day and night to tend a sacred fire that has been burning there since Feb. 9. They are urging Premier Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan to step in and halt the development that threatens to destroy the South March Highlands. …Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Council of Canadians chairman Maude Barlow have pledged their support, said Beaton.” In a letter of support, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “We have asked our members to join us in supporting the call for the protection of Ottawa’s Great Forest and respecting the sacred lands there. Thank you to Danny Beaton and all the firekeepers who have spent long nights tending the Sacred Fire. May it burn forever in our hearts and minds.” This news report and Maude’s letter can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5485.

But by late-February, the Ottawa Citizen reported, “(Ontario’s) Culture Minister Michael Chan told (Ontario NDP leader Andrea) Horwath he was satisfied with an assessment that concluded the South March Highlands was not a significant archaeological site. ‘The assessment report meets the Ministry of Tourism and Culture requirements,’ Chan said in the legislature.” That’s at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5670.

Sadly, the letter from the Ministry of Natural Resources noted in today’s news article comes long after the Beaver Pond Forest and the Richardson Ridge Forest were cut down.

Congratulations to the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands in their campaign to get the Kizell wetland, located on the southernmost boundary of Ottawa’s Great Forest, re-designated as a provincially significant wetland. The Council of Canadians continues to support the efforts of this coalition.