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Province allows provincially significant wetlands to be drained

Wednesday, September 22nd 2010 12:09:28pm

For Immediate Release

Province allows provincially significant wetlands to be drained

Toronto, 22 September 2010 – The Ontario government is failing to protect environmentally significant wetlands from agricultural drainage activities, says Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller in his 2009/2010 annual report released today.  

“We found that landowners in Ottawa used the Drainage Act to undermine provincial policies protecting provincially significant wetlands found on their property,” says Miller.  “The City of Ottawa and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing failed to designate a portion of a provincially significant wetland in the city of Ottawa’s official plan because some landowners requested that the area become a municipal drain.”

Wetlands are vitally important ecological features in Ontario’s landscape. They filter and purify water, provide habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial species, store water during flooding and release it during droughts.  

In 2005, the Ministry of Natural Resources proposed adding 20 additional parcels of wetlands to the provincially significant Goulbourn Wetland Complex, in the City of Ottawa. Under the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement, that is just a first step. The municipality also has to designate the wetland in its official plan, before the classification is final.

Following the MNR proposal, some of the landowners petitioned the City of Ottawa to construct new municipal drains on part of the wetlands. That prompted the municipality to abandon its plan to declare them “provincially significant.” Landowners then filled, drained, and removed vegetation, in an effort to drain part of the wetlands, and remove its “provincially significant” status.

“If the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs continues to allow and finance municipal drains in wetlands, it is inevitable that wetland loss will continue,” says Miller. “To ensure our wetlands are conserved, provincial policy should be revised to prohibit Drainage Act works, particularly new and petition drains, in provincially significant wetlands.”

In the end, the City of Ottawa approved only part of the proposed addition to the Goulbourn Wetlands Complex. The province eventually consented to the change.

Click here to read the chapter “Drainage Act & Wetlands” on the website of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.
Click here to download the full report in .pdf.

Click links below to access media releases on other topics mentioned in the Environmental Commissioner’s 2009/2010 Annual Report – Refining Conservation:

Environmental Commissioner Releases 2009/2010 Annual Report

Aging Landfills: Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters
Sewage Treatment – Not Good Enough
Province’s air quality standards are not airtight
Wanted: One billion more trees for southern Ontario
Lack of Mining Oversight Jeopardizes the Far North
Government’s plan will not save caribou
Loophole big enough to truck 160,000 tonnes of sand through
More scrutiny needed for large natural gas plants

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The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the province's independent environmental watchdog, and report publicly on the government's environmental decision-making.  

Aussi disponible en français.

For more information, contact:  
Hayley Easto
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
416-325-3371 / 416-819-1673

Click for high-resolution photo.