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filling in

Pavement near marsh is bad thing: chair
Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News Staff
Published on Dec 12, 2008

Hamilton Conservation Authority staff cannot determine when fill was placed in Volunteer Marsh, next to the site of a proposed storage facility development at 201 King St. E. within the Cootes Paradise environmentally sensitive area.

As a result, the authority cannot have the fill removed, and return the wetland to its originally functioning condition, said HCA watershed planner Nora Jamieson, who approved a rezoning and official plan ammendment for the corner property at King Street East and Olympic Drive to permit construction of a four-building storage facility.

“We’re dealing with what’s there now. I don’t know who placed the fill there or when it was done. We deal with what’s there today,” Ms. Jamieson said.

But Patricia Chow-Fraser, chair of biology at McMaster University, said degraded wetlands shouldn’t just be left alone or be covered with more fill.

She supports the restoration of previously filled or degraded wetlands like Volunteer Marsh. She qualified her comments because she’s not familiar with the exact location, but said the paving and fencing property next to a wetland is not a good idea.

“It’s the principle of ecosystem restoration,” Ms. Chow-Fraser said. “Nature doesn’t obey property lines. Anything that involves pavement near a marsh is a bad thing. What’s the point of doing all this restoration if you’re going to rezone this for development?”

In her original August report on the application, Ms. Jamieson stated “HCA staff have concerns with the statement…that indicates that grading will occur along the western boundary of the site and extend approximately 11 metres at the widest point into the adjacent Volunteer Marsh.

“Staff observed that fill placement already extends beyond the westerly property boundary and into Volunteer Marsh, onto lands owned by the City of Hamilton. HCA requests that this fill be removed and the area restored back to its natural condition (i. e. marsh, swamp)…furthermore, all filling and grading activities associated with the self-storage development must be contained with the disturbed portion of the subject property.”

But in September, in a letter to City of Hamilton planning staff, the HCA reversed its position.

In the subsequent letter, Ms Jamieson states: “HCA has agreed that the existing fill on the lands to the west of the subject property may remain and that additional fill may be placed along the western boundary.”

No approval

But this week, Ms. Jamieson told the Dundas Star News the letter does not mean permission has been granted to place more fill in the marsh and the authority has only given its support for the zoning and official plan ammendments – with no approval yet for any other aspect of the development.

“We still have the opportunity to review the site plan drawings,” Ms. Jamieson said.

She said the authority can not require removal of fill already placed in Volunteer Marsh because they only have six months after such a violation to enforce it. The existing fill was placed without HCA permission.

“How far it dates back, I don’t know,” she said.

As a result, the HCA also cannot determine who was responsible for placing fill in the wetland.

In order to meet floodproofing conditions, the property must be raised to a minimum elevation of 81.04 metres. Ms. Jamieson said the property has already been raised to about 80 metres elevation in some areas.

The placement of fill on, or near, a wetland is a controversial issue that doesn’t appear to have any definite answer.

Mike Waddington, a professor of geography and earth sciences at McMaster University, said much of area around Cootes Paradise was originally wetland but was continually

filled in, altering the important functions wetlands serve within the watershed. He said once any portion of a wetland is infilled it ceases to be wetland.

“I find it sadly ironic that the site has been raised to a minimum height in order to address the threat of flooding, given that it is the destruction of much of the original wetlands that, in part, leads to increased flooding risk,” Mr. Waddington said.

According to Environment Canada, wetlands represent “one of the most important life support systems in the natural environment” providing water filtration, irreplacable habitat, flooding control and a source of oxygen.

A section of the Environment Canada website states “filling a marsh, swamp, bog or fen is strongly discouraged because it destroys wetland function and may result in the loss of important fish and wildlife habitat. It can also increase downstream flooding by reducing water storage in the floodplain.”

Recommendations to ammend the zoning and official plan to permit a storage facility at 201 King Street East at Olympic Drive in Dundas are expected to be considered by the city’s economic development and planning committee in January.



http://www.dundasstarnews.com/news/article/155464

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