You will need to read the entire article to fully appreciate what may appear to you as widescale incompetence and misconduct. This article uses tabs to separate each section – click on each tab to be sure to read the entire article. You can also click on each illustration to see it in a larger size and can also consult this glossary if you get lost in the acronym soup.
KNL’s plan of subdivision in the South March Highlands is based on a master servicing concept that assumes:
- that Kizell wetland and Beaver Pond can be used as storm water management (SWM) facilities,
- that sufficient storage volume exists in both Kizell and Beaver Pond to store storm water running off their subdivision, and
- that precipitation falling in the Shirley’s Brook subwatershed can be diverted to Kizell and Beaver Pond by using these wetlands as SWM cells.
These assumptions appear to conveniently avoid the high cost of building man-made SWM facilities at the expense of the environment.
Water runs off of developed areas up to 25x as fast as it does off of natural areas because pavement, roofs, and other hard surfaces do no absorb or slow the flow of surface water. When it rains in a forest, water is absorbed by trees and plants. Much of the groundwater recharges the underlying aquifer and some of the water is used by trees, plants, and animals to grow. Water unused by plants as they grow is given back into the environment as water vapour through a process called transpiration.
When it rains in a developed area, storm water is intended to flow into SWM facilities where it can be detained in a holding area and more slowly released into the downstream water course. Reducing the flow rate of storm water into downstream areas, prevents both flooding as well as the erosion that can be caused by fast-moving water. The man-made SWM system approximates the natural flood control function of green infrastructure such as wetlands and forests but does a poor job of controlling more frequent “every-day” rain events, often leading to erosion downstream.
Storm water gathers pollution (oil, gasoline, antifreeze, etc.) from driveways and roads as they wash down man holes into the SWM system. Under Ontario’s planning regulations, that pollution must be trapped in SWM facilities before storm water can be released into the natural environment. SWM facilities are important for water quality management as well as for controlling the rate at which storm water re-enters the natural water courses.
Piecemeal Approval of KNL Stage 1
Up until recently, it was generally believed that KNL’s master servicing plan was adequately handling storm water flows based on the engineering work that they had presented to the City to get approvals for their subdivision. KNL had originally proposed to develop in 4 phases as shown in Fig 2 of their 2006 Serviceability Study (below) with
- Phase 1 on the south side of Kizell wetland,
- Phase 2 on the north side of Beaver Pond,
- Phases 3 & 4 on the north side of Kizell wetland.
These phases have since been renamed by KNL for reasons not disclosed to the public. The original Phase 1 was renamed Phase 6, the original Phase 2 became Phase 9, and the original Phases 3 & 4 became Phases 7 & 8 respectively. To avoid confusion over the phase renumbering, this article will refer to the original Phases as “Stages”.
Since Stages 2 – 4 were contingent on a water diversion from one sub-watershed (Shirley’s Brook) to another (Kizell / Watts Creek), the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment process (MCEA) established by the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) requires that an Environmental Assessment (EA) be performed prior to any water diversion.
Consequently, the City should have been bound by the provisions of the MCEA to withhold approval of the SWM plan for the subdivision until after an EA had been completed. The City should also have been bound by the Planning Act which requires approvals to be in accordance with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS States:
2.2.1 Planning authorities shall protect, improve or restore the quality and quantity of water by:
a) using the watershed as the ecologically meaningful scale for planning;
b) minimizing potential negative impacts, including cross-jurisdictional and cross-watershed impacts;
c) identifying surface water features, ground water features, hydrologic functions and natural heritage features and areas which are necessary for the ecological and hydrological integrity of the watershed;
But in 2007, the City piecemealed the approval of Stage 1’s SWM plan without ensuring that the remaining Stages 2 – 4 were environmentally viable. This approval was an apparent violation of the MCEA that prohibits approval of parts of a project prior to approval of the entire project (hence the term “piecemeal“):
It is inappropriate for proponents to reduce their responsibility under the EA Act by breaking up or piecemealing a larger project into smaller component parts, with each part addressed separately. Piecemealing is not in compliance with the EA Act.
[Verbatim quote including emphasis from the MCEA.]
There is no evidence in any 2007-era documents that suggest that City planning staff ever intended to do an EA for the water diversion. This suggests that, at that time, either the City planners were making engineering decisions even though most of them are not licensed as engineers (in violation of the Professional Engineers Act), or that a professional engineer (P.Eng) may have acted inappropriately by apparently ignoring the MCEA.
Piecemeal Approval of KNL Stage 2
In 2011, the City again piecemealed the approval process when it approved the clear-cut in Beaver Pond Forest for Stage 2 (aka Phase 9 north of Beaver Pond). The watershed boundary between Shirley’s Brook and Kizell/Beaver Pond runs across Stage 2 as can be seen by the dark black line in the figure below.
Once again the City allowed KNL to proceed without having an SWM plan that did not rely on a water diversion and without waiting for the results of the EA launched in 2010 for the water diversion.
In doing so, did the City violate the EAA by granting approval to KNL for site alteration after Notice of Commencement had been served for the long overdue EA on water diversion in the fall of 2010?
- The EAA specifically forbids (Section 13.3) a proponent from proceeding with an undertaking prior to approval of the EA by the Minister of Environment once a Class EA has commenced.
- How could the City reasonably expect to conduct an EA while allowing KNL to modify the very environment it was studying?
When questioned how this could possibly be justified, city planner Guy Bourgon responded that KNL was being allowed to proceed with the subdivision in the portions of Stage 2 that did not require a water diversion.
In the same letter Bourgon also admits that the City could not tell exactly where that watershed boundary was (even though they were simultaneously giving KNL the green light to proceed) and adopts the position that the forest must be cleared to find the watershed boundary!
How could it be that a professional engineer such as Bourgon was unaware that the City of Ottawa possesses high resolution ‘Digital Elevation Models’ (DEMS), which can be used to produce high resolution elevation maps, and can depict watershed boundaries to a high degree of accuracy?
- DMS technology is generally capable of producing a horizontal resolution for these DEMs of approximately 1-10 meters and a vertical resolution of approximately 25 cm.
- An entire library of DEMS maps is also available to every municipality in Ontario from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), having a horizontal resolution of 10m, that is specifically intended for the purpose of mapping hydrological features such as a watershed boundary.
Did Bourgon fail to explore the use of DEMS information, or is it possible that he mislead elected officials and public in his response? Assuming Bourgon was genuine in his response and was not aware of digital mapping technology, why did the City ignore the subsequent offer of the services of a professional cartographer from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society that offered to map the watershed boundary at no cost without removing trees? Wouldn’t that have been more prudent given that this question concerned one of the highest rated ecological areas of Ottawa?
It would appear that the City is so eager to piecemeal approvals that, not only can a developer proceed with phases of a subdivision that are not directly dependent on a water diversion, a developer can even proceed with phases that are dependent on it as long as they can further piecemeal it into smaller pieces that aren’t!
Early Discrepancies Ignored
KNL retained the services of the engineering firm IBI Group to prepare a servicing study in 2006 which originally encompassed all the Stages of the subdivision. Presumably KNL selected IBI because IBI had previously merged in 2004 with Cumming Cockburn Ltd (CCL) who had done the SWM studies for Genstar, the developer that KNL had purchased the subdivision rights from in 2000.
Waiting for an EA would have meant that KNL could not proceed with any subdivision construction until its entire SWM plan was approved. IBI did a second, apparently piecemeal, study for just Stage 1 in March – May 2007 (Kanata Lakes North South of Kizell Pond Serviceability Study) that supported the City’s decision to proceed with Stage 1 on the south side of Kizell wetland.
It appears that the City’s planning staff paid little attention to the two servicing studies done by IBI when deciding to piecemeal the approval of KNL’s SWM plan. Had they done so they would have realized there is a 1 m difference in the assumed water level in Kizell between these two studies!
Such a significant discrepancy between these two serviceability studies is an indication that something was likely wrong with one or both models. Engineering drawing number 5004 from the 2007 study, shows that it was modified from its 2006 original version – with no engineering change record identified on the drawing. These drawings show different water levels for Kizell wetland and also differ in the boundaries of Area 10A (which drains to the Carp River) as illustrated above.
Notice how the 2007 permenent water elevation for Kizell is lower than in 2006 by about 3 feet (1 m). The 2007 result suggests that there is considerably more storage in Kizell wetland than was determined by their 2006 modeling (thereby arriving at a lower elevation for the water – you might visualize this as different sizes of bathtubs holding the same volume of water – the water level is lower in the larger bathtub which has more storage).
This is particularly curious given that there were no physical changes to the Kizell wetland between 2006 and 2007. However, Drawing 5004 in the 2006 study indicates that berming was to have been performed in the west side of the wetland – presumably to prevent spillage to the Carp River and to create extra storage up to 94.5 m. Although this berm is also shown in their 2007 version, the Phase 1 Report (Section 7 item 3) states that no berm was built!
In August 2010, leaders of the community met with planning staff asking for confirmation that sufficient capacity existed in Beaver Pond given flooding earlier that spring. The South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation (SMHCRC) non-profit organization had noticed this discrepancy in the two KNL studies and, along with the Kanata Lakes and Beaverbrook Community Association, opposed the planned clear cutting Beaver Pond Forest for Stage 2 (aka Phase 9) which would increase runoff into Beaver Pond.
It was only in Oct 2010, long after the approval was given to KNL for Stage 1, that the City published a Notice of Commencement for an EA regarding this water diversion. The City put a P.Eng, Darlene Conway, in charge of the study and retained the services of the engineering firm AECOM to do the hydrological analysis.
Why is an EA Necessary?
The MCEA Appendix 1 clearly lists “Construction of a diversion channel or sewer for the purpose of diverting flows from one watercourse to another.” as requiring a Schedule C EA.
Under the Ontario EAA there are several types of EA:
- Schedule A (pre-approved) are short and cursory with no need to engage the public because it is assumed that other legislation (such as the Planning Act) governs them, or that they have insignificant impacts;
- Schedule B requires limited public engagement and is intended for relatively simple undertakings such as the expansion of existing facilities;
- Schedule C requires extensive public engagement due to their complexity or significant environmental impact and is typically used for the establishment of new facilities (such as KNL’s storm and sanitary sewer system).
- Full EA which is done outside of the class process requires very extensive public engagement. This is required whenever the proponent is not a municipality or other government body, or as ordered by the Minister of the Environment (MoE).
A water diversion across a watershed boundary is not a simple matter. Every landowner that owns property that touches either the waterway that will lose water, or that will receive water, has “riparian” rights to water under well-established Common Law that dates back centuries.
This is affirmed in the findings of the National Capital Commission’s (NCC) Watt’s Creek Report done in 2011 by Stantec (click on the picture below to read the text).
Precipitation is the main method by which water courses are recharged with water, so the diversion of storm water can have a significant impact on both the subwatershed that loses storm water as well as the one that receives it. Since water diversions can result in denial of water to landowners on one side, and flooding or erosion of landowners on the other side, the MCEA requires significant public engagement in any proposed project that involves a water diversion.
In summary, KNL has no exclusive right to drainage for the stormwater that does not naturally drain to the Kizell Drain/Watts Creek watershed. This is a well-established legal principle regardles of whether a Class EA supports the diversion or not. Legally, any landowner must obtain the consent fo all downstream riparian landowners in both the watershed being diverted from, as well as the watershed diverting to.
Kizell Always was a PSW
Then there is the fact that the entire area is environmentally sensitive!
In 1994, a study of the Kizell wetland mysteriously omitted any scoring for significant features (such as rare or endangered species of plants and animals), nor did it include any score for aboriginal cultural heritage (there is no evidence to suggest that the Algonquin First Nations were even consulted by them).
This is particularly mysterious because the Kanata Lakes NEA Study done in 1992 for the Regional Municipality by Daniel Brunton study covered the Kizell wetland specifically for the purpose of identifying significant natural features. Brunton found that:
Almost 500 vascular plant species were recorded, including many species found virtually nowhere else in the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton.
Some people might wonder whether the authors of the 1994 study were incompetent or were otherwise motivated to not find anything significant.
Amazingly, neither the City planning staff who commissioned the Brunton study, nor the staff at the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) who read both reports noticed this massive discrepancy either.
This omission had the convenient effect of Kizell scoring 582 out of the 600 necessary to be designated as a Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW) and cleared the way for developers who wanted to use Beaver Pond and Kizell as SWM cells.
In 2011, after pressure exerted by the SMHCRC, the Kizell wetland and Beaver Pond were finally properly evaluated by the City and subsequently recognized by the MNR as constituting a PSW.
Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) requires storm water to be treated PRIOR to entering a PSW. This means that KNL should re-mediate the development that has already occurred in Stage 1 (aka Phase 6) on the south side of Kizell wetland to ensure proper treatment of storm water.
It is possible that KNL might argue that the prior approval of Stage 1 grandfather’s it from complying with the PPS. If so, such a line of argument would conveniently overlook:
- the fact that the piecemeal approval of the SWM plan appears to have been in contravention of the Environmental Assessment Act at that time,
- that the subsequent Certificate of Approval for the SWM works in Stage 1 may have been based on potentially false engineering modeling results (see tab 11),
- that Condition 62 of subdivision approval requires KNL to minimize its disturbance on Kizell wetland.
Who Should be the Proponent for the EA?
Over the intervening years, due to the lack of regulatory protection as the result of the flawed 1994 Kizell evaluation, Beaver Pond has already been used as a storm water management facility for the Kanata Lakes community. In fact the dredging of Beaver Pond in the mid-90s probably led to the extirpation of the Eastern Musk Turtle, a species-at-risk, which used to be common in the Beaver Pond area and hasn’t been sighted there since dredging occurred.
Consequently, Beaver Pond has been “owned and operated” by the City for over 20 years. So the City legitimately chose to be the “proponent” for the EA.
The 40% Agreement between KNL and the City legally binds them for the purposes of development in the South March Highlands. Under that agreement, originally negotiated with Campeau in 1981, Campeau and its successors (Genstar and KNL) must cede 40% of “open space” to the City for the purposes of SWM ponds, roads, schools, hydro lines, and parks.
As a result, we have the unusual situation where the City is legally the beneficiary of development under the 40% Agreement currently being pursued jointly by the City and KNL. Pursuant to that agreement, the City has also come into ownership of several parcels of land, including the Beaver Pond SWM facility. That satisfies the test of proponency required by the MCEA.
Since the cost of the EA is being paid for via development charges levied on KNL, it appears that the EA is now proceeding above-board even though it was started 3 years late.
The Ministry of Environment (MoE) shares a similar view as their Regional Office affirmed in 2010 the City’s decision to proceed as a proponent, stating that they had no issue with the City proceeding with being a proponent for a Schedule C EA.
In that letter, the MoE also confirmed that the “integration provisions” did not apply in this case. The “integration provisions” of the MCEA allow projects to be downgraded to a Schedule A if they are subject to the Planning Act and have insignificant environmental impacts, or non-complex considerations.
To-date no public engagement in the City’s EA has occurred despite the fact that it was promised to the public and was clearly planned by the City as evidenced by the workplan prepared by AECOM at the start of the project.
According to the MoE website on the EA process, “The EA program ensures that public concerns are heard. …. Public consultation is mandatory and the public is encouraged to get involved in an EA process.”
Why the Secrecy?
The first phase of any EA is a comprehensive study that documents existing conditions. This creates a baseline from which the development proposal can be assessed for its environmental impact and also sets the context for gauging how potential mitigation measures can be assessed.
Since Stage 1 (aka Phase 6) was already substantially developed by KNL by the time that the City got around to doing the EA, AECOM correctly studied this portion of the subdivision as “existing condition” and treated the remaining Stages 2 – 4 as future development.
Since KNL’s prior work was done by a different engineering firm (IBI) this created the rare situation where the City conducted an independent review of the accuracy of a developer’s prior engineering work. It also provided the public with an opportunity to validate whether or not the developed portion of the subdivision is actually in compliance with the approvals given.
Even though Phase 1 of the EA completed in April 2011 and the draft report was prepared in May, it appears that the City stonewalled the release of the findings to the public until December 2011.
It appears that not only did the City attempt to keep both the interim and final results from the public, but they apparently also stonewalled access by the NCC who is one of the many riparian landowners affected by upstream development in the SMH.
- The NCC conducted a study that was published in Jan 2011 confirming the environmental sensitivity of Kizell/Watt’s Creek to the health of the Greenbelt.
- Accordingly, the NCC had asked the City for the results of the Phase 1 Report but obtained their copy only as a result of downloading it from this website!
Several women had babies in less time than it took to force release of public information via access to information requests. Why?
The Phase 1 Report found that KNL’s Stage 1 is NOT in compliance with either its previously submitted plans or the approvals prematurely given to them. Not even close (as you will see in tab 11).
Why the Cover-Up?
Instead of disclosing the findings publicly, the City held a meeting in August 2011 between the City’s senior planning staff, led by John Moser, and with IBI and AECOM:
- The minutes of this meeting were released in Appendix A of the Phase 1 Report and provides an account of what appears to be an attempt by IBI to question AECOM’s modelling.
- The minutes indicate that AECOM successfully defended IBI’s questions and a detailed comparison of the draft and final versions confirms that AECOM did not modify the results.
- The minutes also show that IBI in the end agreed with AECOM’s findings.
- The minutes also reveal that the City’s project manager for the EA, Darlene Conway, was mysteriously absent at such an important meeting.
If the City wanted to review the results of the draft report with IBI, which was available in May 2011, why wait until August to hold the meeting when many people are usually on vacation?
It is possible that the project manager would have opposed having a meeting with KNL while simultaneously avoiding a meeting with the public. In a letter from Conway dated October 12, 2010, the City promised that public consultation would occur when the Phase 1 Findings were available:
There will be an Open House at which the results of the phase 1 work will be made available for the public to review and comment upon…
Having previously declared that a public review of Phase 1 would occur, the City’s project manager would have been bound by her professional obligations to provide the public with the same opportunity to review the draft in a timely manner. The Code of Practice for Class Environmental Assessments which affirms that ALL stakeholders should be treated fairly and equitably:
Consultation with interested persons is a cornerstone of the class environmental assessment process and is a legal requirement of the Environmental Assessment Act. The applicant and proponent should seek to involve all interested persons as early as possible in the planning process so that their concerns can be identified and considered before irreversible decisions and commitments are made on the chosen approach or specific proposals. …
The class environmental assessment process should be open and transparent. …
Means of achieving transparency can include, but are not limited to:
• Sharing complete information with all interested persons to support conclusions and recommendations at each phase in the process;
… proponents have a responsibility to provide appropriate information to interested persons in a timely manner …
[Verbatim excerpts from the Code of Practice]
Why Try To Downgrade the EA?
The City may respond that the fine print in the MCEA says that review of a Phase 1 EA report does not have to engage the public (unless the proponent chooses to do so in its terms of reference for the project). However, AECOM’s workplan that was prepared in accordance with the terms of reference demonstrates that the City intended from the outset to consult with the public at the end of Phase 1.
So why did the City only meet with the developer while apparently keeping other stakeholders (community, interested persons, NCC) at bay? Is it possible that Moser could have been meddling in engineering matters even though the City is supposed to be leaving all engineering accountability to professional engineers? If Moser is not a P.Eng, did he violate the Professional Engineers Act if he did so?
Currently, there appears to be an attempt by KNL and City planners to drop the EA investigation in favour of relying on the completely opaque subdivision approval process. It is very telling to read in Appendix A that IBI actually proposed that an EA was not necessary because “a suitable stormwater strategy can be determined through the current development process”.
Presumably that would be the same development process that has led us to the point where existing conditions are not compliant with the approvals given. The minutes also state that IBI and the City will “follow-up” regarding the applicability of the EA process.
Subsequently, according to a conversation with the MoE’s acting Regional Manager, City planners have enquired about whether the Schedule C EA can be downgraded to a Schedule A – presumably to avoid further public scrutiny.
As previously mentioned the MoE Regional Office has already said that they have no concerns with the City’s approach to the EA. So it remains to be seen whether the MoE will flip-flop in response to what appears to be an attempt to cover-up by downgrading the EA to a Schedule A.
The Phase 1 Report identifies that there is considerably less storage capacity in both Kizell wetland and Beaver Pond than what was used to justify the piecemeal approval of KNL’s Stage 1 development in 2007. The blue line in Figure D-4 from the Phase 1 Report (shown below) depicts IBI’s 2007 model which predicts a more gradual rise in water elevation than the red line computed by AECOM. The horizontal axis shows the amount of water storage in Kizell wetland at each elevation shown on the vertical axis. From the graph, it is evident that there is about 74,000 cubic metres of less capacity because the red line rises so much faster than the blue line and because at the regulated max elevation of 93.3m the AECOM curve shows approximately only 12,000 cubic metres compared to approximally 86,000 cubic metres estimated by IBI. A similar Figure D-5, in the report shows a shortfall of about 50,000 cubic metres in Beaver Pond.
As a result of this lack of capacity the Phase 1 Report shows that water will actually flow over Goulbourn Forced Road (GFR) and exceed the design limits of Beaver Pond Dam during a heavy rain fall. Water from Kizell will also spill in the opposite direction into the Carp River whenever more than 107 mm of rain falls in a 24 hour period. The illustration below summarizes the results found in Table 1 of the Phase 1 Report and focuses on Scenarios 11 & 12 in the Phase 1 Report (Existing Conditions 107mm and 148 mm rain) as well as Scenarios 14 & 15 (Phase 9 with similar rain levels). (Note that in the scenarios where the Phase 1 Report predicts an overflow, you need to add the overflow to the max outflow of the facility to arrive at the total flow. For example, total flow at Beaver Pond dam is 1.60 cubic metres/sec that it was designed for plus an overflow of 2.95 cubic metres/sec for a total of 4.55 cubic metres per sec).
Note that BOTH Beaver Pond and Kizell Wetland lack the necessary storage capacity to meet the Ottawa Storm Design Criteria (if they had sufficient capacity, their water levels and flow rates would not exceed the level approved by the MoE).
IBI, by agreeing on Aug 15 to the findings of the new report, appears to have tacitly admitted that their 2007 study was significantly flawed in claiming that there is 89,825 cubic metres of storage in Kizell Wetland when in fact the graph above shows that there is actually about 1/7 that amount!
So it appears that the MoE authorized Certificate of Approval (C of A) issued in 2007 for KNL Stage 1 (Phase 6) was based on such highly inaccurate data that you might wonder whether or not it was deliberately misleading. In total, the Phase 1 Report shows that over 124,000 cubic metres of storage necessary to meet the Ottawa Storm Design Criteria is simply not present (74,000 in Kizell and 50,000 in Beaver Pond). Large numbers are often difficult to visualize, so imagine every seat in the Scotiabank arena occupied by a person 1.5 feet wide and deep (ok a fat person like me) and 6 feet tall. This is approximately a cubic metre. Since the arena has a max capacity of about 19,150 seats, it would take about 6.5 Scotiabank arenas to seat this volume of missing storage.
Since there was no change to either Beaver Pond or Kizell between the IBI study in 2007 and the AECOM study in 2011, it appears from the Phase 1 Report that the IBI model was spectacularly wrong.
- The inaccuracy might have been caught before Stage 1 was built had the City performed an EA prior to applying for approvals in 2008.
- In the COA letter of application, Bourgon states that no EA was required because the facility was built prior to the EA Act being passed in 2007.
- Yet when later challenged in a meeting held with community leaders during the week of Aug 8, 2010 about the lack of EA, Bourgon subsequently claimed (without providing any further substantiation) that an EA had been done previously.
- there is no public record of such an EA (which would have required a public Notice of Commencement),
- nor is there any reference to it in any engineering study or any other EA done in the South March Highlands (SMH),
- nor did Bourgon cite such a document in his application to the MoE for the C of A,
- nor is one referenced by the EA Phase 1 Report finally done by AECOM.
What is the duty of a P.Eng. in cases like this when phases of subdivision are being apparently being piecemealed?
Tsunami Type Water Flow
The Phase 2 Report by AECOM shows that under the Ottawa Storm Design Criteria the EXISTING conditions result in an outflow from Kizell that is 4x larger than the 1.16 cubic metres/sec and from Beaver Pond at a rate that is 5x larger than the 0.96 cubic metres/sec allowed in the C of A. The whole point of the Ottawa Storm Criteria is to ensure that existing conditions are always within provincially established limits which are based on the peak rainfall within a 24-hour period during the past 100 years.
The maximum flow rate from Beaver Pond down Kizell Drain was established by the 1999 Subwatershed Plan, so are hardly a new target for KNL to comply with. (Similar limits date back in 1984 when the first studies were done by CCL.) In fact, KNL’s conditions of subdivision approval specifically requires compliance with the Subwatershed Plan (Condition 59) and in accordance with provincial regulations (Condition 60).
The 2011 Watts Creek Study done by the NCC independently confirms the targets in the 1999 Subwatershed Plan as being crucial for the health of the Greenbelt. So there is no possibility that the requirements established in 1999 are out-of-date.
The Phase 1 Report estimates that the wall of water flowing over Goulbourn Forced Road could be as high as 2 1/2 feet and over 182 feet long. This is visualized in the report as a series of rectangles of increasing size that correspond to the flood level elevations in the report. Note the table on the left that shows that 40.5 meters of roadway will be over-topped when a flood elevation of 93.5m is reached.
This tsunami-style overflow would be dangerous to motorists during or after a heavy rain, just as it was on Terry Fox Road in July 2009 in the following photo taken by Jesse Dean for CTV news.
There is also no excuse for non-compliance, and there is even less excuse for this ongoing litany of bad approvals by City staff. The resulting public safety hazard is unacceptable.
Unapproved Water Diversion
As previously discussed, the Phase 1 Report shows that the main cause of the discrepancy is the significant lack of available storage in both Kizell wetland and Beaver Pond.
A contributing cause also appears to be the absence of on-site detention of storm water within 57 ha of Stage 1 (Phase 6). All subdivisions are supposed to have on-site water detention and KNL comes up short. All of Area 10 in the chart below is supposed to have on-site detention and has none. Table C-1 in the Phase 1 Report confirms that the size of Area 10 is 56.8 ha.
How did this happen? The AECOM report shows that the area originally studied by IBI (CCL) for Genstar back in 1994 had either erroneously mapped the catchment area (as seen in the redlines below), or that subsequent to 1994 the catchment area was changed by subdivision development. As can be seen on the west side of the map produced by AECOM (below), most of Area 10-2 (18 ha) and significant portions of Area 10-4 (14 ha) and 2A (29 ha) were changed since 1994.
The 1999 Shirley’s Brook Watts Creek Subwatershed study done by Dillon Consulting indicates that the original subwatershed boundary was irregular and not a straight line as shown on the western edge of Area 10-A and 10-4. The map of the relevant area in the Subwatershed Study can be seen as the black boundary line inside the red oval below on the top left side of the illustration shown below. This more or less aligns with the red line in the figure above.
Who Approved the Change To Watershed Boundary?
KNL purchased the development rights to the area from Genstar, in 2000 and subsequently IBI appears to have changed the watershed catchment area to align it to the subdivision boundary. IBI’s 2006 Servicing Study (shown below) indicates that both the major and minor storm systems flow into Kizell and Beaver Pond. The “minor system” is the storm sewer system which in Ontario is designed to handle the peak rainfall in a 5 year period. The “major” system is a controlled flood that typically runs along roads when the minor system surcharges (reaches capacity). The major system is basically determined by how the roads and lots are graded in a subdivision.
According to the MCEA, IBI’s proposed realignment of the Carp watershed boundary should have been subject to an EA in 2007. This is in addition to studying the effect of the water diversion across Shirley’s Brook to Kizell. In other words, KNL’s subdivision plan required a water diversion involving 3 watersheds (Carp, Kizell/Watts Creek, Shirley’s Brook)! This should have been in the same EA that the City avoided when it piecemeal approved Stage 1.
It is possible that IBI may have at some point during the construction of Stage 1 discovered that too much water was going to flow into Kizell and that the missing berm might be problematic since it might otherwise have mitigated some or all of the spillage to the Carp River. You might wonder whether IBI discussed this problem with KNL.
In any event, the Phase 1 Report also reveals that KNL’s Stage 1 is diverting water from 10 ha of land in the Kizell watershed into the Carp watershed (shown as area 10-A in the first map above). In area 10-A, the major system routes water to the Carp, but the minor system routes water to Kizell. The diversion of the major storm from Area 10-A appears to conveniently take some of the pressure off of the missing storage in Kizell.
So what is going on? We seem to have a situation where (a) the original diversion of water from the Carp to Kizell as proposed in the 2006 plan was not correctly approved and (b) it appears that KNL is not even implementing that plan anyway!
Bottom line is that the situation is entirely out of control. There are no approvals for any of these diversions, nor were any engineering or environmental impact studies ever done.
Does that also imply that the professional engineers at IBI who diverted water without approval may have acted inappropriately in what appears to be a possible violation of the MCEA, as well as possibly the Ontario Water Resources Act which prohibits the removal of more than 50,000 L per day from a watershed?
This diversion of major system flows from Area 10-A directly affects the Richardson Ridge Subdivision and, according to Figure 2 in their 2007 Servicing Study, the cumulative effect of those extra flows is not included in their SWM planning. This illustrates the problem of not having a proper approval process. If the City was not impeding public access to Regional’s SWM report we might be able to tell whether or not this extra drainage is accounted for in later studies, and if not, whether there is sufficient capacity in their plans for this unexpected water volume.
The Carp River Corridor was the subject of an MoE Minister’s Order at the time that the approvals for Stages 1 and 2 were piecemealed. It would appear therefore that none of this water diversion is accounted for in the Third Party Review of the Carp River engineering models, the City is ignoring these findings and is currently pressing for zoning approvals in Kanata West based on obsolete data.
The dominoes are falling and affecting other developments. When will the mayor act in the interest of public safety, hold City management accountable for this mess, and implement a proper approval process that does not piecemeal SWM plans?
Existing Beaver Pond Hazards
In 1985 Beaver Pond dam was designed to have an internal weir at 92.55 m and an emergency spill at 93.2m, meaning that it can regulate downstream water flow out of Beaver Pond and into Beaverbrook’s Kizell Drain to 0.96 metres/sec as long as water elevation in Beaver Pond is less than 92.55 m. Anything over 92.55 m would cause an uncontrolled outflow of water into Beaverbrook and the Marshes Golf Course via Kizell Drain. The Phase 1 Report confirmed that the existing design is still true today.
According to the Phase 1 Report, during a heavy rain, the extra water arriving in Beaver Pond under existing conditions will cause water levels in Beaver Pond will rise to 92.85 m, exceeding its design and spilling through the emergency overflow, causing an uncontrolled outflow into Kizell Drain into Beaverbrook of 4.55 cubic metres per second (5 ft x 5 ft x 6.4 ft every second).
This violates the C of A by a factor of 4.7x and is incompatible with the safe maximum allowed flow in both Kizell and Beaver Pond established by the 1999 Subwatershed Plan and affirmed by the C of A. According to the Subwatershed Plan, flow rates higher than the maximum allowed will cause significant erosion (which in turn causes many other problems downstream) as well as aggravating flood hazards by clogging drains and causing water backing up at culverts under roads. This erosion risk was also confirmed by the NCC in the 2011 Stantec Study mentioned previously.
It is essential that water levels never be allowed to increase because homes have been built over the years assuming that the City would not permit water levels to exceed a maximum level.
Immediate Flood Risk
According to the Phase 1 Report, Chapter 7 Summary of Findings, para 4:
The corresponding Beaver Pond water levels also exceed the quantity control elevation identified in the MOE C of A and Kanata Lakes North Serviceability Study, KNL Developments (IBI Group, 2006) under ultimate development conditions (92.60 m).
This is quite an understatement given the immediate hazard to those who live adjacent to Beaver Pond. Approximately 33 properties having an elevation of less than 93.5 m are in immediate risk of flooding due to the projected increase in flood elevations during a heavy rain.
- Kanata Rockeries – 2 lots at risk
- Ironside Court – 8 lots at risk
- Cecil Walden Ridge – 8 lots – 7 appear to have basement elevations < 92.85 m
- Hansen Ave – 15 lots at risk
The immediate risks can occur whenever more than 106 mm of rain falls and the consequences can range from flooded backyards causing property damage to flooded basements causing both property damage and long-term health hazards due to potential mold and fungus.
So why hasn’t the City warned those residents? What has the City been doing to rectify these problems since they became known over 9 months ago?
Cumulative Flood Risk Affects Entire West End
In addition to the immediate risk is the cumulative risk of sewage backup as a result of storm water flowing down basement drains in flooded basements. These drains are connected to the sanitary sewer system which, in most parts of Ottawa, is separate from the storm sewer system.
The underlying problem is that sanitary sewer system in most of Ottawa is near capacity and any extra stormwater entering via basement drains can easily cause the sanitary sewers to surcharge and back-up into basements.
This cumulative risk is confirmed by the West End Flood Investigation that found that many more homes beyond the immediate area of flooding may be at risk due to the fact that even a few flooded basements can overload the sanitary sewer system. In July 2009, nearly 1500 homes were flooded across Kanata, Stittsville, and Carp because stormwater entered basement drains in some homes in Stittsville. The investigation revealed that such a widespread impact was possible because the entire west end of Ottawa shares the same, near-capacity, sanitary sewer system.
Beyond flooding basements, the greatly increased outflow from Beaver Pond may cause surface flooding issues downstream in Beaverbrook and Kanata Research Park. Some Kanata residents are also concerned that the original outflow target was established to prevent flooding a the former Atomic Energy of Canada nuclear facility which is now occupied by Nordion.
So flooding in Beaver Pond could affect far more homes than the ones immediately at risk near Beaver Pond. The cumulative risk caused by KNL exceeding its C of A could possibly affect a thousand homes in Kanata, Stittsville, and the Village of Carp.
Perhaps instead of spending over a $billion on unnecessary and discretionary projects such as Landsdowne Park and a bus tunnel downtown, Mayor Watson should focus on fixing the far more serious and less sexy infrastructure problems that create widespread risks such as this.
Existing Carp River Hazards
The Phase 1 Report shows that Kizell wetland will overflow into the Carp River (in addition to the 10 ha diversion of water) and appears not to be accounted for in any of the Carp River flood models done by the Third Party Review ordered by the Minister of the Environment. The Carp River model currently predicts that the Carp River will only be 2 inches less in elevation than Kizell wetland during a heavy storm.
If the Carp River model is in error, (the City’s own engineers have publicly raised many questions about the adequacy of the modeling parameters used in them and the City has declined to make the model and its data available to the public), there is little margin for error before the Carp spills into Kizell wetland and on down into Beaver Pond. So which way the spillage will go in a heavy rain is anyone’s guess. The Phase 1 Report says that Kizell will spill over into the Carp, but according to section 3.1 of their report, it appears that AECOM did not review the Carp River Models, or the TFDE SWM model, or the Richardson and Broughton Ridge SWM models which all “manage” the stormwater flowing into the Carp under the same assumed rainfalls.
If AECOM is right, the spillage from Kizell into the Carp watershed could aggravate flood risk everywhere upstream from, and including, the Village of Carp (which is the point of “sufficient outlet” according to a 1907 ruling which designated the Carp River above the Village as a Municipal Drain).
The Richardson Ridge development (owned by Regional Group) that lies between KNL’s development and the Carp River also appears to have problematic SWM planning due to the City’s piecemeal approval process. The City approved the Regional’s development on the assumption that the SWM facility could be located in the floodplain of the Carp River – even though there was no supporting data, or policy argument supporting that decision. To the contrary, Section 3.1 of the PPS specifically directs development and site alteration away from floodplains.
During an OMB challenge by the SMHCRC, the City identified that Richardson Ridge would proceed on the basis of a temporary SWM solution pending the permanent determination of where this facility could be located. It seems that the OMB has no difficulty in piecemealing approvals either as it decided not to rule on the challenge from the SMHCRC.
The Phase 1 Report shows that part of KNL’s Stage 1 will cause stormwater to flow into Richardson Ridge Subdivision whenever KNL’s minor storm sewers overflow (surcharge). This major system flow is not included in the Richardson Ridge SWM plan and needs to be for public safety reasons. Otherwise it is not known where this water will flow, or whether the SWM plans for Richardson Ridge have sufficient capacity to handle it.
Meanwhile City planners are proceeding with a rezoning of the flood fringe in the portion of Kizell wetland that is immediately east of Terry Fox Drive and adjacent to Richardson Ridge. It appears that the City’s solution to the Richardson Ridge SWM problem is to simply “remove” the pesky floodplain via rezoning. It is possible that Moser has never heard of King Canute who taught that he could not simply command the waters to go away.
Where is the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) in all of this? They are supposed to be the guardians of flood plains, yet appear to be willing to sit idly by while Ottawa drowns itself.
As a case in point, the City applied to the MVCA for a Fill Permit for Terry Fox Drive Extension (TFDE) in 2010 stating that approvals would not be necessary under the Planning Act (allowing the City to skip a few steps in the process in their hurry to build TFDE). But less than a year later, the City is currently processing Zoning Bylaw approvals under the Planning Act that overlap with the same area!
Is there no respect for provincial regulation in Ottawa? Why are provincially funded authorities in the MVCA, MNR, and MoE doing nothing to enforce provincial regulations?
Ottawa Storm Design Criteria vs Actual Observed Rainfall
Storm Water Management (SWM) design in Ontario is only obligated to ensure that subdivisions are designed to handle a so-called “100-year storm” event. In Ottawa, this regulation is well-documented (2004 Ottawa Sewer Design Guidelines) as the Ottawa Storm Design Criteria and equates to 106.7 mm falling within a 24-hour period as calculated by a statistical regression algorithm.
However, a higher amount of rainfall actually occurred in Ottawa during July 22 – 24, 2009. Note that the map below shows that heaviest area of rainfall for the most part narrowly missed the South March Highlands. During that time 148 mm of rain fell over a 3-day period. While this did not exceed 107 mm of rain in any single 24-hr period, the total amount of rain over 3 days caused more havoc than expected. As previously mentioned, nearly 1500 homes were flooded in the west end during that rain storm.
Had that amount of rain fallen in the SMH, the Phase 1 Report Scenario 12 shows that the water levels would have risen in Kizell to the point where Kizell wetland would have spilled into the Carp River at a rate of 1.28 cubic metres per second in addition to creating tsunami-like conditions as water spills over Goulbourn Forced Road into Beaver Pond.
The Phase 1 Report also clearly shows that a July 2009 equivalent storm occurring in the SMH under existing conditions will result in a water level of 93.03m in Beaver Pond, a number that is considerably higher than the flood elevation that it was designed for.
The report documents that 17.50 cubic meters (618 cubic feet = 8 x 8 x 9.7 ft, roughly the size of a large garden shed) of water will spill over Beaver Pond dam every second during a rainfall that is comparable to what occurred elsewhere in Kanata-Carp in July 2009.
The City may respond that it is only obligated to ensure that subdivisions are designed to withstand the Ottawa Storm Design Criteria. But KNL’s Phase 6 development doesn’t even do that.
Since the 148 mm that fell in July 2009 is an observed storm, it calls into question why the Ottawa Storm Design Criteria has not been amended by provincial regulation. Clearly looking at only a 24-hr window is too narrow, so why has the MoE not required development in Ottawa to include this type of storm event in their SWM plans? Especially since everyone expects heavier storms to occur more frequently in future due to climate change.
KNL Has No Feasible Plan for Phases 7 – 9
The Phase 1 Report also shows, in addition to the problems with existing Phase 6, that future KNL Phase 9 development north of Beaver Pond is infeasible as is any further water diversion due to the lack of capacity in Beaver Pond and Kizell wetland.
According to Scenarios 14 & 15, allowing Phase 9 to proceed means that a 107 mm storm would result in water levels in Beaver Pond of 93.1 m and create an uncontrolled flow of water gushing at 2.23 cubic metres per second down Kizell Drain into Beaverbrook.
A repeat of the July 2009 storm along with Phase 9 development would result in an even worse water level of 93.5 m and a 5.55 cubic metre outpouring. As a point of comparison, virtually all of the backyard elevations along Hansen Ave. are around 93.5 m and could be flooded.
Since the Phase 1 EA Report makes it obvious that KNL’s current SWM plans are infeasible due to lack of capacity in Kizell wetland and Beaver Pond, why hasn’t the City ordered a full stop on all site alteration for Phases 7 – 9?
What is Mayor Jim Watson Doing?
During the 9 months that the City has known about this hazard, it has done nothing to advise residents whose homes are in jeopardy. Why have homeowners who are at risk not been advised by the City staff? Have staff forgotten that their salaries are paid for by these homeowner’s property taxes?
Nor has the City taken action to prevent the sanitary sewer system in the entire west end (serving all of Kanata, Carp, and Stittsville) from surcharging in the event of water entering the sanitary system via flooded basements in Beaver Pond.
Even though the City has known about the possibility of spill-over from Kizell since last March, none of these results appear to have been accounted for in the modelling done of the Carp River. Instead the City decided to push ahead with Carp River Corridor development by publishing notice to finalize the zoning for the Carp River Corridor without apparently considering these results.
The broader question that affects all of Ottawa is how is it possible for the city’s senior staff to allow existing conditions to become worse?
- Could it be that planning staff have been playing fast and free with approvals based on piece mealed engineering models?
- Is it possible that it is a bad idea to rely solely on SWM models submitted by developers who have a vested interest in minimizing cost of SWM mitigation regardless of the consequences to other property owners downstream?
What action is the Mayor taking to reign in out-of-control development and to hold those accountable for it?
The root of the problem seems to be with the planning department that appears to rely on piece meal development studies that ignore cumulative effects on surrounding areas to be approved. These staff are led by senior management who have implemented an approvals process that appears to be designed to rubber-stamp development approvals as fast as possible – a broken process that the Mayor is now trying to accelerate for developments that include “green” features. This will be like trying to accelerate a train wreck!
It is incredible that the planning process in City Hall is so broken as to allow this mess to be created in the first place. The citizens of Ottawa deserve better planning and much more professional engineering work than what has occured to-date in the South March Highlands.
Should City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick and his Director for Planning, John Moser, be held accountable for what appears to be a breach of their duty to serve the interest of the public?
Call to Action
It is URGENT that the problems with KNL’s development get resolved ASAP because we are talking about risk due to EXISTING CONDITIONS!
- ALL KNL development activity must stop until this gets sorted out – including the Phases 6 development that is nearly complete on the south side of Kizell as well as ongoing work in Phases 7-9.
- The missing site-detention of storm water must be added to Phase 6 without impacting the PSW in Kizell since the subdivision must be brought into compliance with the C of A and PPS. Since the missing berm cannot be added now without adversely affecting the wetland, another solution must be found ASAP to eliminate the increased flood risk to residents. This may require on-site detention to be added within Phase 6.
- All site alteration in Phases 7-9 (including further deforestation and stumping which reduces the ability of the forest to soak up water), must be halted until such time as KNL is able to present a SWM plan that demonstrates to the community that it is feasible and does not rely on more water diversion.
- Due to interaction between the Kizell and Carp water systems, the KNL subdivision, and its cumulative effect on the Broughton, and Richardson Ridge developments must also be added to the Carp River Corridor flood analysis.
- The effect of the unapproved realignment of the Carp watershed boundary must be added to the scope of the existing EA being conducted by the City on KNL’s water diversions.
- The unapproved realignment of the Carp watershed boundary and water diversion of 10 ha from Kizell to the Carp River needs to be included in the Richardson Ridge SWM plan and KNL should be required to pay for the extra costs incurred by Regional Group to do so.
- An investigation should be launched to determine whether engineers at IBI acted appropriately in preparing their 2007 study as well as seemingly not obtaining all necessary approvals for that realignment and water diversion. Also whether or not they fulfilled their oversight responsibility in ensuring that the missing berm was constructed by KNL.
- In the interest of public safety, the MoE needs to order yet another hold on all development alongside the Carp River as well as the SMH until the big picture is better understood.
- The Mayor should ask the City Auditor and Professional Engineers of Ontario to investigate the actions of planning staff to determine whether the Professional Engineers Act was violated.
- City Council needs to review the criteria by which its Planning Committee issues approvals of subdivision plans. More checks and balances need to be in place to prevent out of control approvals based on inadequate oversight by staff.
- The MoE needs to overhaul its criteria for stormwater planning so that it takes a broader view than simply 24-hrs of heavy rain.
All this is just yet another example of why developing the SMH is a bad idea. The SMH is:
- a major infiltration point for the Ottawa aquifer,
- the most densely bio-diverse area in Ottawa, home to more than 20 documented species-at-risk and hundreds of significant species,
- has unique geo-heritage value, and is of considerable cultural heritage value to the Algonquin First Nation,
- is the source of the only two remaining cool-water streams left in the Greenbelt and these water-related issues have a direct impact on the NCC’s riparian rights.
When will the Mayor halt non-sustainable and infeasible development and act to protect the SMH? Perhaps you should ask him by emailing him at <Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca>