Credit Valley Conservation is launching an appeal to the Minister of the Environment over Erin’s Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Hillsburgh Pond and Dam, claiming the Town followed a “flawed process”.
Requests to the minister for a “Part II Order”, which could result in a review and changes to the EA study (or a new study), had to be made by February 1. Discussions will continue for the next two weeks to seek a settlement of the dispute.
“Our concerns have not been addressed at this time. And yes, we will be submitting a letter to MOECC, but can withdraw it should the town be able to satisfactorily address the concerns we have raised,” said CVC CAO Deborah Martin-Downs on Monday.
“We are looking for a transparent and traceable environmental assessment process that achieves a balance of objectives.”
CVC would prefer that the pond be drained, or that a smaller off-line pond be created. Erin Town Council has agreed with its engineering firm Triton, which conducted the EA, that it would be better to rehabilitate the dam while rebuilding the bridge, and keep the pond.
CVC says its preferred options were arbitrarily removed from consideration, but Erin Mayor Al Alls says those options were not feasible since the pond is owned by Wellington County.
Since the County wants to retain the pond to go with the new Hillsburgh Library, the Town would have been faced with the prospect of trying to expropriate the pond property, which could only be done with special permission from the Province.
“There’s no way we’re going to do that,” said Alls. He does not favour allowing additional time for comments on the EA or re-doing the analysis of any options. Martin-Downs, however, said Triton is willing to put some options back into consideration.
At its last meeting, the CVC Board of Directors authorized staff to request the Part II order if no agreement was reached with the Town of Erin.
“Our objective is not to ensure that the CVC preferred option is the selected option, but to ensure a proper EA,” said the staff report to the board.
CVC says draining the pond or moving it off-line could significantly improve fish habitat in the West Credit River, a position backed by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Erin Councillor John Brennan, who is the Town’s representative on the CVC Board, voted in favour of the motion to put all options back into consideration and authorize a possible request for a Part II Order.
He said this would create a more defensible EA report, but he still believes the pond should be preserved. He noted that the pond provides a desirable environment for various species, including birds and turtles, and that a new dam could improve fish habitat through a “bottom draw” that would release cooler water downstream.
He said the main point of contention is the economic analysis, not the natural factors. He said retaining the pond is clearly the most economical option at $2.5 million, compared to $3.2 million for draining the pond.
In the scoring of options, preservation of the pond was ahead by only a small margin. He said the Town was forced to include inappropriate costs, which made preservation of the pond seem excessively expensive.
He said a more proper analysis would swing the scoring much further in favour of preservation.
“The town was charged with an extra $1,285,000 to eventually replace the dam and $500,000 for mitigation measures on a pond it doesn’t own,” he said in a presentation to the CVC Board. “Neither of those are proper costs to include.”
He also noted that expropriation of the pond could cost an additional $350,000, plus about $75,000 in legal and Ontario Municipal Board costs. An OMB dispute could see taxpayers funding both the Town and County sides.
“We really have nothing to review,” Brennan told the CVC Board. “We are, in effect, trying to decorate a float that is not entered in the parade. The EA’s preferred solution must meet a number of criteria, one of which is that it must be a practical solution.”