There are over 27,000ha of potential aggregate resources (sand, stone and gravel) in Simcoe County.[i] Last year the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition analysed how well protected from development our natural features are, and found that only 14% of Simcoe County’s landscape is well protected, and of this, 11% sits atop aggregate resources.[ii]
As the province continues to push for more aggregate development, the health of communities and ecosystems are at risk. Increased atmospheric phosphorous, changes to water regimes, complaints of noise and dust due to blasting, traffic related to haulage, and impacts to the watershed’s forests and wetlands (and their wild inhabitants) are just a few concerns relevant to the Simcoe watershed.
The Provincial Policy Statement (2020) (PPS) sets out the ways in which natural features, such as aggregates, are to be managed. Under the PPS aggregate resources are afforded long-term protection in ways that other natural features are not. Particularly concerning is section 22.214.171.124, which states that “[a]s much of the mineral aggregate resources as is realistically possible shall be made available as close to markets as possible” and that demonstration of need or demand/supply analyses are not required. This directive is almost verbatim included in the County of Simcoe Official Plan.[iii] There is clear danger in assuming constant demand for which constant supply must be made available, as it leaves much of the province, especially the GTA, at risk of unfettered extraction.
Working in tandem with the PPS, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe[iv] guides where and how development activities should take place. The Growth Plan is currently under review. Through Amendment 1 of the Growth Plan, the province is seeking to “make it easier to establish mineral aggregate operations closer to market.” To do so, changes would permit new aggregate operations in Natural Heritage Systems (except the Greenbelt), while removing prohibitions on aggregate operations from the habitat of endangered and threatened species within the Natural Heritage System.[v] Amendment 1 is currently open for comment on the Environmental Registry (ERO-019-1680) until July 31, 2020.
What stands in the way of rampant extraction? The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP)[vi], is a bold policy that limits the impacts of development activities, including aggregate extraction on the Lake Simcoe watershed. What makes the LSPP particularly powerful is that in case of conflict between it and other provincial policies, “the provision that gives the greatest protection to the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed prevails.” In fact, the LSPP is very strict against permitting new aggregate operations in specific key heritage and key hydrologic features.[vii]
The provincial government announced that they would begin a statutory review of the LSPP this fall. We need to ensure that the Plan is strengthened and implemented in ways that will protect the health of Lake Simcoe and its watershed for the long term.
Dena Farsad, PhD (ABD)
July 24, 2020
[i] In 2013, the Ontario Geological Survey produced the Aggregate Resources Inventory Paper 188 which outlines potential quantity and quality of aggregate resources in the County of Simcoe. AIRP 188 identifies 2404 ha of primary resources (totalling 283.7 million tonnes) and 27,503 ha of possible bedrock-derived aggregates (totalling 10,928 million tonnes) within the boundary of Simcoe County.
[ii] See the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Pits and Quarries online GIS mapping application to get a sense of the number and location of pits and quarries currently within the Lake Simcoe watershed.
[iii] See for example, section 126.96.36.199 and section 4.4.2 of the Simcoe County OP.
[iv] In Ontario, land-use planning happens under the guidance of the Planning Act, which establishes planning goals and processes, and sets out roles and responsibilities of municipal and regional governments. Section 3 of the Actmandates the establishment of the PPS. All regions and municipalities in Ontario must adhere to the policies set out in the PPS while developing regional and municipal official plans.
[v] In many ways, this is the nail in the coffin for endangered and threatened species as the Endangered Species Act, 2007 has already been significantly weakened under Schedule 5 of Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019).
[vi] The Plan is given legislative authority via the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008.
[vii] Including significant wetlands, significant habitat of endangered species and threatened species, and significant woodlands.
Take action until July 31st, 2020 at https://act.environmentaldefence.ca/page/62895/action/1?ea.tracking.id=action and / or make comments on the province’s Environmental Registry of Ontario site here https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-1680Or email email@example.com directly.
Please include something like this in your comments: Ontario’s proposed changes to growth, planning, and allowing aggregates in habitats of endangered species would be bad for Lake Simcoe’s water quality if enacted. I am very concerned about these and other proposed changes, allowing unfettered, and unneeded greenfield development across southern Ontario at the cost of farmland and natural heritage.
Re. ERO 019-1679, the proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and ERO 019-1680, the Lands Needs Assessment Methodology.