Hamilton Conservation Concerned About Eramosa Karst Feeder Lands

This news just arrived about Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Eramosa Karst.

Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) has submitted a formal request to the Minister of the Environment to order that the Ontario Realty Corporation (ORC) comply with Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act for the ORC lands adjacent to the Eramosa Karst. HCA directors and staff say the Ontario Realty Corporation has recommended the sale and development of the Eramosa Karst feeder lands, without completing all required studies to make that determination and that their Environmental Assessment of the subject lands is both premature and incomplete.
     In June of 2009, HCA correspondence to ORC indicated the need for additional studies to be undertaken in order to assess whether development on these lands was possible without adversely affecting the core area. Eight studies were listed, as well as concerns about preliminary stormwater management assessment. ORC responded to HCA’s concerns in September of 2009, agreeing to undertake six of the eight studies. These studies have not been completed and are scheduled to be carried out in a timeline ranging from a season to two years. ORC dismissed the need for two of the requested technical studies without an outline or discussion of its reasons for their dismissal.
     Four months after agreeing to undertake the six multi-year assessments, the ORC filed its formal “Planning Approvals and Environmental Assessment (EA) Study Notification of Completion of the Environmental Study Report (ESR) – Category C” on January 26, 2010 with a public comment period until March 29, 2010. HCA planners strongly believe that this Environmental Assessment is premature and incomplete and does not meet the basic purpose of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990, which is “the betterment of the people of the whole or any part of Ontario by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment.” One of the considerations of the Minister is assessing whether or not to issue a Part II Order on a project is to decide if a submitted environmental report meets the purpose of the Act. HCA strongly believes that it does not.
     The Eramosa Karst Conservation Area is a unique “karst” landscape made up of a network of underground streams and caves, and resurgent springs and sinkholes, carved out by the power of flowing water. The land was transferred to HCA by the province to protect it as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). The ‘feeder lands’ in dispute are east and immediately adjacent to the conservation area. As the name indicates, groundwater “feeds” into the Karst from this area and HCA is seeking to protect these lands. HCA, the City of Hamilton and other interested parties have consulted with the ORC since 2007. Hamilton has included the Core and Feeder Areas of the Eramosa Karst, as part of its Natural Heritage System in its new official plan to ensure the ANSI’s long-term protection.
     HCA staff submitted the formal request for a Part II Order in a letter to The Minister of the Environment, The Honorable John Gerrestson, on March 29, 2010, after HCA directors endorsed staff recommendations at their March 4 meeting to contact the Minister of the Environment with these concerns, requesting the issuance of an order to comply with Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act, and complete the agreed studies.

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