On April 17, 2010,The Ottawa Citizen published an article called “Critter Patrol on Terry Fox“.
Unfortunately this article presents a one-sided and whitewashed description of what is really going on. Here is some important errata:
- It presents information from “The experts….”, creating the impression that there is no expertise among the hundreds who oppose this road. In fact, there are many experts in opposition including well-known botanists, biologists, turtle experts, civil engineers, etc. All of the expert scientific information about this area, conveniently suppressed by City, raises signficant concerns about any development in this area has been compiled by eminent regional experts. The article is an insult to all of those experts.
- It fails to highlight that there are in fact 17 Species-at-Risk identified as being impacted by this road and nowhere in the article is the environmentally sensitive nature of this area discussed.
- The City’s own South March Conservation Plan states that this is the most densely bio-diverse area in the City of Ottawa and that “The Conservation Forest represents one of the most important reservoirs of ecological potential in the City of Ottawa, providing resources for the renewal of depleted natural areas elsewhere as well as encouraging diversification within established habitats.”
- In addition to providing habitat for 17 Species-at-Risk, it is home to 423 native species of vascular plants, including 41 Regionally Significant species, 134 bird species, over 50 fish & mammal species, and uncounted reptiles and insects. These “critters” depend on over 30 differentiated ecotypes of vegetation that comprise 10 distinct habitats – all packed into an area less than 6 square Km – and all within City limits.
- The bio-diversity of this area has been designated as a Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
- It quotes the project manager, Mr. Mike Flainek, whitewashing history by stating “The City of Ottawa from Day 1 has made some very conscious decisions to make sure that environmental impacts have been, first of all, managed, and second of all, reduced.”.
- The Citizen did not question how this statement could be true when at the outset of planning the road the City selected the worst possible routing for it as measured by environmental impact (based on the City’s own evaluation of alternatives). The route chosen is in fact 5x worse than the environmentally best alternative which is simply to fix up Goulbourn Forced Road. Using GFR instead of bulldozing a Conservation Forest for TFD will save $47 M in taxpayer’s money since the upgrade work for GFR is already scheduled at a cost of $18 M.
- The Citizen also did not question why the City is building a 4-lane road when a 2-lane road will suffice (assuming that the current routing). According to the planning assumptions used for this road, employment growth for the West area was to more than double between 2001 and 2011.
- In reality, the employment numbers available in North Kanata between the 2001 and 2006 censuses reveal employment growth has been less than 20%. With the recession and troubles in the high-tech sector, there would have been no where near the anticipated employment growth since 2006. The extra $10 M in cost and environmental impact of a 4-lane road is not necessary.
- The “experts” are quoted as saying, “When the turtles come out of hibernation over the next two weeks …”. How can these “experts” not know that the turtles are already out of hibernation and have been seen basking in the sun for several weeks? Perhaps these photos taken on the Easter weekend in the South March Highlands should be added to the identification wall of their trailer. There is a photo of a Blanding’s in the photoset.
- Evidently we are to believe that “The fencing around the construction site … should keep the Blanding’s turtule out during road work.” A visual inspection of the area readily identifies many gaps in this Maginot Line that turtles will never cross.
- A more serious inaccuracy is the assertion that “To help protect the turtles in the longer term, a permenant fence will line both sides of the roadway throughout the forested area.” In reality, the CEAA Screening Study states that the fence is only on one side of the road because the forest will be destroyed by development on the other side. The Citizen also did not question how this fencing will be used to prevent turtles from crossing at intersections or on the transecting collectors such as GFR and 2nd Line where there are no fences planned. Perhaps the City is planning to train the turtles to use the culverts, but I doubt it.
- The article states “…they’re a threatened species protected by provincial law” but fails to mention that both the turtles and their nesting sites are protected by both provincial and federal law. The Citizen did not question how the City will avoid destroying nesting sites when they have not taken the time to do a turtle study to determine where those sites are.
- One has to wonder about how the City has chosen the location for the environmental crossings discussed in the article when, according to minutes of the City transportation committeee, the only wildlife movement study done by the City was a 3-month long winter study. Those “experts” must be really smart to be able to use a study done when both frogs and turtles are hibernating.
- The article observes that the City may be chasing $32 M in federal funding. It is too bad that the Citizen didn’t note that federal funding still comes out of the same taxpayer’s pockets as municipal. Left pocket or right pocket, the buck stops with the taxpayer.
Notwithstanding the whitewash, it’s time to stop this madness and revisit the real question of (a) is this road still needed at all, and (b) if so is it in the right place?