Gifford Hill separates the Port of Oshawa (in the distance) from Second Marsh (in the foreground). Photo by Dylan Neild.
Saving Oshawa’s Waterfront
Gifford Hill is an important part of Oshawa’s history. This iconic greenspace to the east of Oshawa Harbour was an important stopping point for First Nations navigating the lake or moving upriver to Lake Scugog. It became a trading post in the 1700s, then homestead of the first European settler to the area and a pioneer cemetery.
In recent years, Gifford Hill has been caught in a tug-of-war between those who want to develop Gifford Hill and those who want to protect it. The development advocates include the federal Port Authority. They want to allow FarmTech Energy Corporation to build an ethanol plant that will produce 210 million litres of ethanol per year.
Residents and municipal leaders want to protect Gifford Hill, the only buffer between Oshawa’s industrial port and one of Lake Ontario’s largest coastal wetlands.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper first learned about the issue in 2008 when working with the Oshawa Marina Users Group, Friends of Second Marsh, and other community associations to help restore public access to Oshawa Harbour. We were concerned that the ethanol refinery would occupy important waterfront property, especially since the plant does not need a connection to Lake Ontario in order to operate. It is a gross misuse of precious shoreline.
We knew that the FarmTech project would require municipal zoning approvals, provincial permits for air and water emissions, and federal environmental approvals (because of federal support for the project). We participated in the early zoning hearing, submitted comments to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment about the potential for impacts on air and water, and submitted preliminary comments on the environmental assessment.
In 2012, FarmTech withdrew its request for federal funding. The approvals processes were halted, but FarmTech said it was not giving up on the project.
In 2013, FarmTech reported that the project was back on track. Waterkeeper is awaiting word that new permit requests have been submitted to the government.
Case Status Update:
In 2013, FarmTech reported that the project was back on track. The company then published a notice of tender for bids to begin construction in fall 2014 and complete the ethanol plant by December 2015.
As far as Waterkeeper knows, nothing has happened since the notice of tender went out. The Oshawa Port Authority said it had no update as of fall 2015 and Oshawa City Council reiterated its formal opposition to the proposal.
With two years of silence on the file, Waterkeeper is calling the case "CLOSED." It’s time to concentrate on the waterfront’s future and plan for what residents do want for their lake.