July 4, 2003
Office of the Auditor General of Canada
and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G6
RE: Waterkeeper petition regarding Fixed Link environmental assessment
Dear Petitions Officer,
Please find enclosed a petition to Transport Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Environment Canada, submitted under the Auditor General Act.
The questions outlined in the petition below deal with the ongoing environmental assessment for the construction of a fixed link to the Toronto Island Airport. The agencies identified above have been involved with the project in some capacity since the first screening report was prepared in 1999.
If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.
Petition to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
An environmental assessment for the fixed link (bridge) to the Toronto City Centre Airport is listed in the Federal Environmental Assessment Index as project number 6209, titled, ?Toronto City Centre Airport ? A Fixed Link.? Until recently, the lead responsible authority was listed as Transport Canada and the project proponent was the Toronto Harbour Commission. That assessment was completed in September, 1999, but the fixed link was never constructed.
Recently, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) posted the Project 6209 description to its web site (www.torontoport.com), indicating that the TPA has assumed the role of project proponent. No Federal Responsible Authorities have been identified yet. The 1999 EA report and a draft 2003 EA report can also be found on the web site of the Toronto Port Authority.
Three months prior to the completion of the 1999 environmental assessment report, the Toronto Port Authority was created (June 1999). The Port Authority, which replaced the Toronto Harbour Commission, is required to adhere to the Canadian Port Authority Environmental Assessment Regulations, which came into being in July, 1999. Harbour Commisions, however, are exempt from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act under s. 2(1).
This petition seeks to clarify what should happen when a project proponent and/or responsible authority changes. We also wish to clarify the correct procedures for dealing with time lapses between completion of an assessment and commencement of construction, and addressing changes to the local environment which may have occurred during that time lapse.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper?s comments on the draft 2003 EA report and can be found on our web site, (www.waterkeeper.ca). A hard copy of these comments has been included with this submission, for your records.
Transport Canada was listed as the lead Responsible Authority for the original fixed link project, but is not referred to on the Port Authority project. The Minister of Transport is also the individual to whom the Toronto Port Authority reports.
1. The Federal Environmental Assessment Index once listed Transport Canada as the Responsible Authority for the fixed link project at Toronto City Centre Airport. Could you describe the role Transport Canada will play in the implementation and oversight of the new project? Similarly, what role, if any, will the Minister of Transportation play?
2. Will Transport Canada be issuing any permits, providing any financial support or in any other way contributing to the construction and/or operation of the fixed link?
3. Does the Toronto Port Authority require any authorization and/or permit from Transport Canada before it can construct the fixed link?
4. Does the draft environmental assessment report, released in May 2003 and updated in June 2003, provide Transport Canada with all the information it needs to authorize the construction of a fixed link, assuming such authorization is necessary?
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
According to the 1999 screening process, Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for evaluating and, if appropriate, providing permits for construction and/or operation of the fixed link under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Fisheries Act.
The Spadina Quay Wetland, referred to in the sections below, was constructed at Spadina Road and Queen?s Quay and opened in 2000. The wetland includes pike spawning areas, fish and bird habitat, and has reintroduced a variety of native plants, shrubs, and trees to the waterfront. The wetland project did not exist when the 1999 report was prepared.
Fisheries and the fixed link
5. The environmental assessment found that there would be no net loss of fish habitat. This finding was based on the premises that
a. limited fish habitat existed within the Western Channel, and b. the Spadina Quay Wetland would be constructed after the fixed link was completed.
Since the Spadina Quay Wetland was completed in 2000, and construction on the fixed link has not yet begun, should the impact on fish habitat be reassessed during the 2003 EA process?
6. What mitigating factors have been incorporated into the implementation and monitoring program of the 2003 EA to ensure that construction of the fixed link will still result in an overall benefit to fish habitat?
7. As part of the 2003 EA process, what specific measures have been taken to assess the potential impacts of construction and/or operation of the fixed link on fish spawning grounds and/or runs?
8. What measures have been taken since 2000 to assess the impacts on fish and fish habitat near the Spadina Quay Wetland from construction of the fixed link?
9. What measures have been taken since 2000 to assess the impacts on fish and fish habitat near the Spadina Quay Wetland from operation of the fixed link?
10. Is a reassessment of fish habitat in the fixed link area required before the fixed link project can begin? If so, why? If not, why not?
11. The environmental assessment report states that, once in operation, controlling runoff from the moveable portion of the bridge is not practical. Would this runoff, which would likely include salt/de-icing chemicals and oils, require authorization under the Fisheries Act? Why or why not?
12. If authorization under the Fisheries Act is required for both the operation and the construction of the fixed link, can construction begin before such authorization has been secured?
13. Has any person or agency applied for a Fisheries Act authorization in connection with the fixed link project?
14. Are there currently active files for the fixed link project, under s. 5 of NWPA and s. 35 of Fisheries Act? Is any reassessment process underway due to the lapse of time between the issuance of the 1999 report and the 2003 project proposal?
15. How has the Coast Guard been involved in the fixed link project to date? Is future involvement likely?
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper?s office is located right on the Toronto waterfront, just a few blocks from the Toronto City Centre Airport ferry terminal. Our presence on the water has led us to notice the large number of migratory birds which frequent the Toronto waterfront, including numerous species of rare ducks.
The 1999 screening report makes no reference to migratory birds, native birds, or bird habitat. The only reference to birds of any kind is in connection with ?nuisance birds? which interfere with airplane traffic and safety.
Our research suggests that construction of the fixed link may require a permit under the Migratory Birds Regulations. The issue of migratory birds, however, does not appear to have been explored in either the 1999 or the 2003 environmental assessment reports. While supporting documents contained in the registry for the 2003 EA suggest that the Toronto waterfront is an important region for migratory birds, the draft report claims that the region is not highly valued.
Environment Canada was not listed as a responsible authority on the original FEAI registry.
Migratory birds and the Fixed Link project
16. What was Environment Canada?s role in the original Toronto City Centre Airport Fixed Link environmental assessment?
17. Will Environment Canada play a role in the 2003 Fixed Link environmental assessment process?
18. Is a permit under any section of the Migratory Birds Regulations, including s. 35, required in order to construct a fixed link to the Toronto City Centre Airport? Why or why not?
19. Has any person or agency applied for a Migratory Birds Regulations permit in connection with the fixed link project? If so, when? Has it been granted? Why or why not?
20. Does the 2003 fixed link environmental assessment contain sufficient baseline information regarding migratory birds and/or their habitat?
21. Were any concerns ever raised regarding the lack of migratory birds information contained in the 1999 report?
22. Should the 2003 environmental assessment include any monitoring requirements for assessing impacts on migratory birds and/or their habitat during construction of the fixed link?
23. Should the 2003 environmental assessment include any monitoring requirements for assessing impacts on migratory birds and/or their habitat during operation of the fixed link?
24. Is Environment Canada of the opinion that 2003 fixed link screening report satisfies the necessary requirements for a permit under the Migratory Birds Regulations, if such a permit is required?
Water Quality standards and the Toronto City Centre Airport
25. The 2003 environmental assessment report (referring to the 1999 report) states that, once in operation, controlling runoff from the moveable portion of the bridge is not practical. Would this runoff, which would likely include salt/de-icing chemicals and oils, require a permit under the Migratory Birds Regulations?
26. The Project Effects Summary for the fixed link project states that road runoff is likely to have minor localized effects, which are therefore ?not considered significant.?iv What is Environment Canada?s policy regarding pollution which, though individual sources may be localized, may cumulatively have a severe impact on water quality, i.e., stormwater runoff?
27. Does the analysis provided in the 2003 fixed link screening report satisfy Environment Canada?s cumulative impacts policy?
28. Has Environment Canada seen reliable data regarding potential impacts of the fixed link on the Spadina Quay Wetland?
29. Does Environment Canada have any concerns regarding potential impacts (including cumulative impacts) of construction or operation of the fixed link on migratory birds and wetland health in the Toronto region?
30. In May 2002, Environment Minister David Anderson pledged $37,500 to the Spadina Quay Wetland project. This important wetland was constructed in 2000, after the completion of the fixed link environmental assessment. What considerations have been made for protection of this fish habitat and wetland area during construction and/or operation of the fixed link?
31. What is Environment Canada?s policy on monitoring and/or altering projects which are likely to impact wetland restoration and construction projects funded by Environment Canada?
Thank you for your assistance.
July 4, 2003
iFixed Link Environmental Assessment Project Effects Summary. Table 5.5 ? Aquatic Environment and Water Quality Point 1. November 2001. http://www.torontoport.com/THC/fixedlink/tbl-55.pdf
iiFixed Link Environmental Assessment Project Effects Summary. Table 5.5 ? Aquatic Environment and Water Quality Point 4. November 2001. http://www.torontoport.com/THC/fixedlink/tbl-55.pdf
iiiFixed Link Environmental Assessment Project Effects Summary. Table 5.5 ? Aquatic Environment and Water Quality Point 4. November 2001. http://www.torontoport.com/THC/fixedlink/tbl-55.pdf
ivFixed Link Environmental Assessment Project Effects Summary. Table 5.5 ? Aquatic Environment and Water Quality Point 4. November 2001. http://www.torontoport.com/THC/fixedlink/tbl-55.pdf