April 13, 2004
Director, Niagara Escarpment Commission
232 Guelph Street
Georgetown, ON L7G 4B1
Re: Request to address Commission regarding Red Hill Creek Expressway
Dear Mr. Frawley,
I am writing on behalf of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Red Hill Valley Neighbourhoods Association. We would appreciate the opportunity to address members of the Niagara Escarpment Commission at their meeting on April 15, 2004.
We have recently received a staff report dated February 18, 1999, in which the Niagara Escarpment Commission indicates it is in a difficult situation regarding the planning for the protection of the Niagara Escarpment. We wish to bring forward important new information about the Red Hill Creek Expressway environmental assessment process that we believe will assist the Commission in resolving this conflict. An outline of our submission is attached.
Please circulate the attachment among the Commissioners for their review. I will be in attendance Thursday and am happy to speak to the attachment or to answer any questions the Commission may have, in addition to making a brief presentation.
President & Waterkeeper
Cc: Julie Brezden, Red Hill Valley Neighbourhoods Association
Submission to the Niagara Escarpment Commission by
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Red Hill Valley Neighbourhoods Association
April 13, 2004
The City of Hamilton is calling for tenders for the next stage of construction of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. In this phase, the city plans to blast sections of the Niagara Escarpment to create a road corridor and obtain access to aggregate for construction. The blasting would create the largest hole ever in the face of the Escarpment.
The Joint Board gave conditional approval for the Expressway in 1985, with the understanding that there would be no new opening through the Escarpment. The Joint Board declared that, ?There will be no adverse impact on the Niagara Escarpmenti.?
In 1996-7, the then Region of Hamilton-Wentworth (now the City of Hamilton) sought and obtained an exemption order from the provincial government, allowing it to make changes to the project proposal without undergoing an additional environmental assessment. Now, the Niagara Escarpment Commission is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it feels constrained by approvals ordered by cabinet in 1987 and 1997ii. On the other hand, the Commission is charged with the implementation of the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, in order to help ?provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment, and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environmentiii.?
There is a clear conflict between the mandate of the Commission and the provincially-ordered approvals. To convey their concerns the Commission passed this resolution in 1996:
The Niagara Escarpment Commission wishes the Minister and Region to be aware that it believes it is constrained by the Cabinet approval of 1987. There have been major improvements in our understanding of the environment and the effects of an Expressway in the past 10 years. If the Commission was considering the matter 'de novo' it would have recommended a full Environmental Assessmentiv.
When blasting was later added to the construction plans, staff from the Niagara Escarpment Commission reported that, construction of the Expressway will have profound effects on the landscape, resulting in major loss of critical corridor habitat, loss of space for wildlife movement, removal of significant floodplain forests and plant species. The Commission then advised the then Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth that it had ?serious concerns regarding potential impacts of the expressway construction.
Fortunately, the Commission has an option to resolve these tensions in a fair, legal, and appropriate process. There is a section of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act that grants the Minister of Environment the authority to reconsider approvals for the project if there is a change in circumstances or new information.
Section 11.4 (1) of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act states: If there is a change in circumstances or new information concerning an application and if the Minister considers it appropriate to do so, he or she may reconsider an approval given by the Minister or the Tribunal to proceed with an undertaking.
Waterkeeper, with the support of numerous Hamilton residents, requested that the Minister review her approval for the Red Hill Creek Expressway citing both changes in circumstance and new information. We have been informed by the Ministry of Environment that it is currently reviewing our request.
The Niagara Escarpment Commission has demonstrated legitimate concerns about the new information and project changes that have come forward in recent years. Section 11.4 of the OEAA exists to address precisely these circumstances.
iThe Joint Board. Decision of the Joint Board. October 24, 1985: 191.
iiRamsay, Deborah, Senior Planner, Niagara Escarpment Commission. ?Red Hill Creek Expressway, North-South Link. Letter to Pamela Hubbard, Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. 15 March 1999.
iiiNiagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. Section 2.
ivRamsay, Deborah, Senior Planner, Niagara Escarpment Commission. ?Preliminary Design Concept, Escarpment Crossing Section, Red Hill Creek Expressway, City of Hamilton, Region of Hamilton-Wentworth.? Report to Niagara Escarpment Commission. 18 February 1999: 5.
vRamsay, Deborah , Senior Planner, Niagara Escarpment Commission. ?Preliminary Design Concept, Escarpment Crossing Section, Red Hill Creek Expressway, City of Hamilton, Region of Hamilton-Wentworth.? Report to Niagara Escarpment Commission. 18 February 1999: 6.