The following text represents my most recent submission to the City of Greater Sudbury regarding the Maley Drive Extension - Phase 1 project.
Thank you for providing an extended opportunity for the public to provide submissions on the proposed Maley Drive Extension Phase 1 project, as new information was presented to the public after the close of the written submission period prior to the March 1st public input meeting. Interestingly, some of this information was not “new” at all, in the sense that the City has been well aware of it for some time now, but had not previously shared it with the public or Council. Here I am referring to Section 10.2 of the Business Case Report which references the presence of species at risk in a location west of the existing Barrydowne/Maley Drive intersection – and right in the midst of the proposed corridor. The City must have had this information available since at least 2013, as the Business Case Report refers to two “assessments” conducted by the City in support of Overall Benefit Permits with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
As I have already commented extensively on the Maley Drive Phase 1 Project as part of my earlier submission to Council, I will focus here exclusively on the matter related to species at risk. As you know, the 1995 Class Environmental Assessment that was prepared by Marshall Macklin Monaghan did not identify the presence of species at risk. It was this EA which the then Region of Sudbury relied on to select the best transportation alternative to address issues that it had identified at that time. That best alternative is the one that remains on the table today as part of the Maley Drive Extension, Phases 1 and 2. It is the alternative which Council is being asked to support at the upcoming Council meeting of March 22nd, 2016.
In 2008, the 1995 Environmental Assessment was supplemented by an Addendum. It did not identify the presence of species at risk in the Maley corridor. It also did not review any proposed alternatives to the location of the proposed corridor, as that was beyond its mandate.
Clearly, since 1995 and 2008, with the more recent discovery of the presence of species at risk in the corridor, the environmental circumstances impacting the Maley Drive project have changed. As you know, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s Code of Practice identifies the need for a new assessment at times where the environmental conditions for the project have changed. At present, there has been no new Environmental Assessment undertaken by the City which evaluates transportation alternatives which do not negatively impact the existing habitat of species at risk. Until such an undertaking is conducted, it is premature to determine that the proposed Maley Drive corridor represents the best transportation option.
I strongly urge the City of Greater Sudbury to commence a new Environmental Assessment which identifies the transportation issue under consideration, and alternatives to address that issue based on up-to-date socio-economic and environmental circumstances, including the presence of species at risk habitat. The City should also look at other transportation options, including the provision of better transit services, along with the use of transportation demand management, to address its long-term transportation needs.
I also understand that despite my urging, this isn’t likely to happen. I understand too that the City is in the process of working with the Ministry of Natural Resources to obtain an Overall Benefit Permit to allow the Maley Drive Phase 1 project to proceed, as per the recommendations of the 1995 Environmental Assessment, and subsequent decisions of Council. I also understand that the portion of the proposed corridor which will impact the species at risk habitat will not be the first section of the Phase 1 project to proceed, so other elements of the Phase Project can be constructed even without an Overall Benefit Permit.
Proceeding in this manner poses significant risk to the City. What will happen if the Ministry of Natural Resources doesn’t issue an Overall Benefit Permit? The City will have built half of a road – one which doesn’t connect to the Maley Drive/Barrydowne intersection. Sensible planning for this project should at the very least mean that all necessary approvals from senior levels of government are in place prior to committing to the undertaking. I understand that previous Councils resolved to pursue this project – but at the time that those Resolutions were made, there was no discussion about the need of an Overall Benefit Permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, because the species at risk habitat had not been identified in either the 1995 Environmental Assessment or the 2008 Addendum.
Until such a time that the anticipated impacts of the new road on the existing species at risk habitat have been assessed through an appropriate process, and should it then be determined that the best alternative is one which will negatively impact the habitat and an Overall Benefit Permit is issued, it is premature for the City to move ahead with this project, and exposing itself to the financial risk of not being able to complete the project as planned and budgeted.
Please step back and engage in the appropriate level of assessment necessary to move forward with appropriate transportation options to meet the City’s future needs, while not negatively impacting species at risk as per the Endangered Species Act. Please undertake a new Environmental Assessment before proceeding with any aspect of the Maley Drive Phase 1 project.
(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and should not be considered consistent with the positions and policies of the Green Parties of Canada and Ontario)