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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gordon’

Weird Numbers Part 3: Minimizing Environmental Impact or Buffers, Who Needs Them?
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor

Bob Gordon

In the summer of 2005 the Grand River Conservation Area (GRCA) issued a document entitled, “Environmental Impact Study Guidelines and Submission Standards for Wetlands”

Not surprisingly the document contained an Appendix detailing “Buffer and Setback Guidelines”.

It defined buffers in this way: “ Buffers are planned and managed strips of naturally vegetated land located between wetlands and development sites, which are intended to protect the wetland and sustain its identified ecological functions.”

It defines setbacks as follows:

“Setback refers to the physical separation (measured in metres) between the wetland and the proposed development site or structure. Impacts generally expected of development can often be avoided or mitigated if a very broad area of land is maintained in a naturally vegetated state or as green space.”

The document further states that, “The scientific literature (Woodward and Rock 1995, Castelle et al. 1994) dealing with buffer functions consistently recommends a minimum buffer width of 15-30 metres on slopes less than 12 percent with good ground cover to protect wetlands under most circumstances.”

However, in a qualifying paragraph that merits quotation in full the document notes that minimum buffers may be suitable for protection of water quality but are rarely adequate for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat:

“Buffers in excess of 30 metres may be warranted to protect environmentally sensitive bogs and fens or wetlands harbouring locally, regionally, or provincially significant species. Based on current knowledge, the literature increasingly indicates that larger buffer requirements tend to be associated with the habitat requirements of wildlife, especially those species inhabiting marshes (Environment Canada 2004). Therefore, minimum buffer widths based on water quality parametres alone are unlikely to be sufficient for wildlife protection.”

The bottom line is that a minimum buffer of 30 metres of naturally vegetated land is essential.

Hanlon Creek Downstream In The Spring (Photo: Bob Gordon)

The naturally vegetated land buffer surrounding the Provincially Significant Wetland Known as the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex in the parlance of the Ministry of Natural Resources is a mere 5 metres.

The municipal administration justifies this less than minimal buffer by arguing that it is only storm water management facilities and service roads that are located within 30 metres of the Provincially Significant Wetland Known as the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex.

Surprise, surprise but the GRCA’s “Environmental Impact Study Guidelines and Submission Standards for Wetlands” document specifically warns against locating stormwater management facilities within buffers for four very significant reasons:

  1. The location of such facilities entirely within the buffer zone should be discouraged because discharge from these facilities is often directed toward wetlands and associated watercourses.
  2. The need for outlet structures, cooling trenches, and spreader berms also requires grading, an activity that should not take place within a natural buffer zone.
  3. Stormwater management facilities may also accumulate toxins that are harmful to wetland dependent wildlife.
  4. Though sometimes designed to function like a wetland, these facilities do not provide suitable habitat for wildlife, and as such should remain physically separated as much as possible from natural wetlands.

The conclusion is simple, no matter what the city and its hired guns (consultants) tell us there are four good reasons that five is not better than thirty and that even thirty is frequently inadequate.

It is painful and disturbing to consider the inevitable chain of events.

So what happens if the city constructs the Hanlon Creek Business Park with inadequate buffers?

  1. The Provincially Significant Wetland Known as the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex deteriorates in quality over the next decades.
  2. In 20 years when the next civic administration requires more industrial land they expand into and over the wetlands that have lost their significance and value because the plans made today destroyed them.
  3. They ask us to thank them because they are not sprawling into the surrounding country side just making use of some toxic cess pools that have no environmental value anyway.

So much for the City of Guelph’s insistence that they have carefully considered the environmental  impact of the development, and planned accordingly.

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com

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Interested in activism and social change? Want to share your story?

Storytelling For Social Change, a Guelph student group, have a special event, “Roots of Change” taking place on April 1 from 6 – 11 p.m. in the Ed Video Gallery, 40 Baker St, Downtown Guelph.

Four local activists from the campus and local community will share their stories of change and activism, followed by a discussion period.

Opening the event will be acoustic guitarist/singer-songwriter David Scott. During his set he will be performing “Red and White on Rope”, a song he wrote as a creative response to reading Dr. Anne-Marie Zadjlik’s journals regarding the Bracelet of Hope campaign.

The evening is free by donation to support the “Roots of Change” project. Complimentary beverages and food will be provided.

There will also be an open mic portion of the program for people to share their own stories of activism through creative expression.

The event will be recorded for broadcast on CFRU93.3fm.

RSVP to this event via Facebook here.

Come to open your mind, open your hearts, establish new connections, and see a new light or perhaps find something you think is worth fighting for… bring your ideas and positivism and together we will learn from each others stories and make a difference in our community.

Catch the organisers of Roots of Change on CFRU 93.3fm’s Royal City Rag on March 27 between 7-8 a.m.

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Bob Gordon

Natural Heritage Strategy – Why What Happens At Hanlon Creek Still Matters
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor

As we approach spring, the civic administration continues to offer reassurances that the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park is environmentally safe, even cutting-edge, and a model of green development for other municipalities to follow. While doing so, and apparently without realizing it they also undermine their own case as fast as they make it.

If the proposed business park is ‘green’ someone needs to put a muzzle on hydrogeologist and City of Guelph water supply program manager Dave Belanger. On February 4, 2010 he admitted to the Lake Erie Source Protection Committee, “The Hanlon Creek Business Park may represent future potential significant threats [to water quality].”

Come on Dave, get with the program, the plan is ‘green’. Didn’t you mean to say that the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park may represent significant improvements to water quality. And if that isn’t what you meant to say couldn’t you at least take one for the team and keep quiet. After all you can retire and move away before the shit hits the fan anyway.

Hanlon Creek Downstream In The Spring (Photo: Bob Gordon)

The Draft Natural Heritage Strategy recently workshopped to the public also raises concerns about developments in and around the Provincially Significant Wetlands in the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex.

Simply put, the draft Natural Heritage Strategy offer greater protection to Provincially Significant Wetlands than does the draft plan for the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex.

The city’s legalistic argument is that the draft plan of subdivision for the land in and around the Provincially Significant Wetlands in the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex has already been approved and that the proposed Natural Heritage Strategy is not applicable to it.

In a purely legal sense that claim is justified. It also entirely undermines the claim that the Hanlon Creek Business Plan is innovative or a model for other communities.

Implicitly, it is an argument that excuses the inadequacies of the protection for the land in and around the Provincially Significant Wetlands in the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex. It is an argument predicated on the claim that the Hanlon Creek Business Park draft plan of subdivision is an old plan and cannot possibly be held to current standards.

Overall, that’s two strikes against the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park.

It may represent future significant threats to water quality according to the city’s own hydrogeologist and it offers less protection to the Hanlon Creek Wetland complex than do the draft Natural Heritage Policies.

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com 

Missed Bob Gordon’s other articles on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy? Follow the links below to get caught up.

Part 1: The Devil Is In The Details And The Big Bits Too

Part 2: Conflict Of Interest Unmasked

Part 3: Will The York District Lands Be Guelph’s Next Developmental Debacle?

Written comments on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy should be submitted to michelle.mercier@guelph.ca by February 24, 2010 .

Don’t forget to make your voice heard. City Council needs to know we care about how much and how well our natural green space is protected.

Download Draft Natural Heritage Strategy Phase 3 (pdf, 831 kb) 

Download Recommended Natural Heritage Systen Map Jan 2010 (pdf, 560 kb) 

For more on this and other community issues, tune into Royal City Rag, Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm.

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Bob Gordon

Natural Heritage Strategy, Part 3: Will The York District Lands Be Guelph’s Next Developmental Debacle?
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor

The York District Lands will be the litmus test for the City of Guelph’s Natural Heritage Strategy. The 1000 acre plus property in the eastern edge of the municipality is larger than the disputed land in the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex in the southwest corner of Guelph. Formerly home to a provincial penal institution it is a haven for cultural and achitectural heritage as well as natural heritage.

The property extends south from York Road to the city limits south of Stone Road and east from Victoria Road South. The eastern boundary of the property is formed by Watson Parkway South. This slightly irregular block of land roughly two kilometers by two kilometers encompasses the dialectic of development.

The Eramosa River enters the property 400 meters south of York Road and 750 meters into the property turns right 90 degrees and flows southeast through the heart of the property.

According to the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy approximately half of the York Development Lands are Significant Natural Areas (absolutely and irrevocably saved), slated for restoration or ecological linkages.

The largest portion of this protected land is located along the Eramosa River, widest at the north and south boundaries of the property. In the centre ofthe block the protected area declines to a width of approximately 300 meters. To the east, the land along Watson Parkway South is slated for protection or restoration with the exception of a small portion at he corner of York Rd and Watson Parkway South.

Additionally, all of these lands should (according to the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy) be protected by adequate buffers and undisturbed, vacant adjacent lands. It is this category of land that is swamped with ‘unless-es’ in the current draft document. The interpretation of the “unless-es” will ultimately determine the value of the Natural Heritage Strategy and the York Development Lands will present a significant case study.

Citizen groups involved in the protection of the Hanlon Creek Wetland Complex have been frequently faulted for entering the debate too late and neglecting to utilize ‘proper’ channels and avenues for citizen input.

Action on the York Development Lands now, will prevent that label being applied to those who support protection of the Eramosa River as it flows through these lands. The effectiveness of intervention at this time may also be greater than at a later date.

The questions of appearance of conflict of interest will only be answered as the various consultants and professionals are hired to justify the ‘unless-es’. They will only be answered when city hall addresses the issue of the permeable membrane between city hall and consultants.

Most importantly, the ‘precautionary principle’ must be applied, applied rigorously throughout the entire process. Any exceptions to the Natural Heritage Policy can only be justified if their safety can be categorically proven, exceptions must ‘prove their innocence’, as the precautionary principle holds applicants for exceptions to the highest standard of proof.

The city, enforcing the Natural Heritage Strategy, does not have to prove that an exception will be harmful, rather the applicant for the exception must prove that their request will not be harmful. The burden of proof lies with the applicants for exceptions.

Only if the utilization of the York Development Lands procedes in this manner will the Natural Heritage Strategy be of any value. Only if the integration of the York Development Lands into the community procedes in this manner will the natural value and cultural heritage of this site be preserved.

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com 

Missed Bob Gordon’s other articles on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy? Follow the links below to get caught up.

Part 1: The Devil Is In The Details And The Big Bits Too

Part 2: Conflict Of Interest Unmasked

Part 3: Will The York District Lands Be Guelph’s Next Developmental Debacle?

Written comments on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy should be submitted to michelle.mercier@guelph.ca by February 24, 2010 .

Don’t forget to make your voice heard. City Council needs to know we care about how much and how well our natural green space is protected.

Download Draft Natural Heritage Strategy Phase 3 (pdf, 831 kb) 

Download Recommended Natural Heritage Systen Map Jan 2010 (pdf, 560 kb) 

For more on this and other community issues, tune into Royal City Rag, Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm.

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Bob Gordon

Natural Heritage Strategy, Part 2: Conflict Of Interest Unmasked
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor 

The Draft Natural Heritage Strategy (NHS), the City of Guelph presented for discussion on February 4 raises the potential for a serious conflict of interest. 

In significant areas, exceptions to the NHS policy are determined by city staff and council based on documents produced by the consultants employed by landowners and developers to buttress their case. 

One wonders what happens when the city is both the landowner as well as the regulating agency? 

Do they rely on the documents produced by their own consultants to make their decision? 

Also, what happens when a city staffer moves to an environmental consulting firm, or a consulting firm employee joins the city administration? 

Former city staff are known to act as consultants and staff have joined the city from consulting firms. 

One wonders whether this potential conflict has arisen in the past or if, indeed, it could exist at the current time? 

Shouldn’t there be a cooling off period before an employee can make the switch to the city, or vice-versa? 

Or, perhaps, they should recuse themselves from working on development projects that involve their former company? 

Imagine a former employee of ABC Environmental Consulting moving to the city and finding themselves immediately assessing an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) prepared by their former colleagues at ABC Environmental Consulting. 

Unfortunately, potential conflicts of interest are something the Draft Natural Heritage Policy neglects to consider. 

The Draft Natural Heritage Policy also never mentions the precautionary principle, a fundamental tenet of environmental law, embedded in international law and accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada. 

The precautionary principle holds that in environmental disputes, where there is the potential for damage to habitat or species, the concerned parties should always err on the side of caution. 

However there is no emphasis on the importance of protecting the natural environment when the scientific data is incomplete or inconclusive. 

More than one of the participants in last week’s public meeting noted that when nature’s rights confront owners’ and developers’ rights the latter’s rights triumph more often than not. 

This imbalance in power and inherent bias violates the precautionary principle. 

Unfortunately the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy is inadequate policy. It is far too weak to be really protective… and there are too many exceptions that can be ‘unless-ed’ with an EIS.  

The fact that conflict of interest is blithely overlooked and the precautionary principle ignored only makes things a whole lot worse. 

Regrettably, it is policy without princple. 

In the final part of this review of the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy we will discuss the glaring absence of the basic principles of environmental law in Canada. 

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com 

Missed Bob Gordon’s other articles on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy? Follow the links below to get caught up.

Part 1: The Devil Is In The Details And The Big Bits Too

Part 2: Conflict Of Interest Unmasked

Part 3 – Will The York District Lands Be Guelph’s Next Developmental Debacle?

Written comments on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy should be submitted to michelle.mercier@guelph.ca by February 24, 2010 .

Don’t forget to make your voice heard. City Council needs to know we care about how much and how well our natural green space is protected.

Download Draft Natural Heritage Strategy Phase 3 (pdf, 831 kb) 

Download Recommended Natural Heritage Systen Map Jan 2010 (pdf, 560 kb) 

For more on this and other community issues, tune into Royal City Rag, Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm.

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Bob Gordon

Natural Heritage Strategy, Part 1: The Devil Is In The Details And The Big Bits Too
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor

There is good news and bad news contained in the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy, the City of Guelph presented for discussion on February 4.

First, the good news. The dark green areas on the Recommended Natural Heritage System Map (below) are all safe in perpetuity. The dark green areas will remain dark green, forever and ever, Amen.

The bad news is what’s green on the maps is not what’s green now. There is no map that shows you what is green now.

Try a nice big Google Earth image of Guelph, set the Recommended Natural Heritage System Map beside it and see the green turn white as you glance from Goggle Earth to Guelph.

Everything other than the dark green is fair game for development.

Unfortunately Buffers and Adjacent Lands are carefully delineated, but then casually dismissed.

The single most common phrase in the document is “unless it has been demonstrated through an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), Environmental Assessment (EA) or subwatershed study, there will be no negative impact.” (!)

Reassuringly, the glossary contains a long and detailed itemization of three types of negative impacts in impeccable ‘greenspeak’; associated with degradation to the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater, alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat and degradation that threatens the health and integrity of the natural features or ecological functions for which the area is identified. (!)

However, it then leaves their identification to consultants hired and paid for by the landowner to justify encroachment. Needles to say, this raises the potential for a serious conflict of interest.

In the second part of the series we’ll explore the devilish details, and in the final part, the glaring absence of basic principles of environmental law in Canada, the big bits, will be considered.

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com

Missed Bob Gordon’s other articles on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy? Follow the links below to get caught up.

Part 1: The Devil Is In The Details And The Big Bits Too

Part 2: Conflict Of Interest Unmasked

Part 3: Will The York District Lands Be Guelph’s Next Developmental Debacle?

Written comments on the Draft Natural Heritage Strategy should be submitted to michelle.mercier@guelph.ca by February 24, 2010 .

Don’t forget to make your voice heard. City Council needs to know we care about how much and how well our natural green space is protected.

Download Draft Natural Heritage Strategy Phase 3 (pdf, 831 kb)

Download Recommended Natural Heritage Systen Map Jan 2010 (pdf, 560 kb)

For more on this and other community issues, tune into Royal City Rag, Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm.

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Royal City Rag promo Sat 2We’ve another busy Royal City Rag planned for September 26.

Bob Gordon will be back on the show during the first hour to provide an update on the Hanlon Creek Business Park. Later, in the first hour, we’ll be talking to David Estill about Guelph’s new bridge club.

In the second hour we are pleased to welcome our good friends Sam Turton and Jane Lewis back to the show to talk about their All Together Now music for everyone workshop series.

Sam and Jane are bringing roots music master extraordinaire, Ken Whiteley to Guelph on October 4 for a gospel show at Three Willows church. This is a show with a difference as it features a one-day gospel choir, trained during an afternoon workshop with Ken. Those of you who have joined Ken for gospel hour at the Hillside Festival will know what an amazing experience his shows are.

We hope to have Ken join us on the phone from Quebec where he is currently on tour during the show. Sam and Jane will also be playing live for us in the studio.

Whiteley Gospel ChoirKen Whiteley and The Incredible One-Day Gospel Choir
Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 7.30 p.m.
Three Willows United Church
577 Willow Road
Guelph, Ontario

TICKETS: $20 advance, $25 at the door
ON-LINE: www.all-together-now.ca
OUTLET: Ground Floor Music
13 Quebec Street, Guelph, ON, 519-827-1444

Royal City Rag has two tickets to giveaway for the show.  To win these fabulous tickets, you’ll need to answer the following question.

Question: What was the year of Ken Whiteley’s most recent Hillside Gospel Hour performance?”

Send your responses to info@royalcityrag.ca. The first winning response wins the tickets.

Join us Saturdays 7-9 a.m. on CFRU 93.3fm or after the fact via this website or CFRU archive. A great way to start your Saturday!

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