Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Freeze Development Around Ramsey Lake Until Priority Ramsey Lake Watershed Study is Completed

The following is an open letter to the City of Greater Sudbury’s Finance and Administration Committee – a Council committee of the whole – regarding the 2015 capital budget for infrastructure.


Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the City of Greater Sudbury’s consideration of its’ proposed capital budget for infrastructure. I understand that the budget being considered by the Committee does not include a specific line item for priority watershed studies.

Priority watershed and subwatershed studies have been identified as a requirement for the City since at least 2005, when the City’s first Official Plan for the amalgamated City referenced their need. Despite being a requirement of the City’s Plan, over the past decade, not one study has been prepared by the City.

In 2013, the City of Greater Sudbury recommitted itself to preparing a subwatershed study for Ramsey Lake – a lake which is both our recreational jewel in the urban core of our community, and a drinking water source for tens of thousands of Sudburians (see: “Greater Sudbury City Council unanimously passes motion in support of watershed studies”, Naomi Grant, Grassroots Sudbury Media Co-op, May 16, 2013).

The Ramsey Lake watershed study would assess risks from the cumulative impacts of development. Right now, development is proceeding in the watershed without the benefit of a full range of information – information which we would know if the watershed study had been completed.

Now, the CBC is reporting that the City hasn’t moved forward with the watershed study at all, as other priorities appear to have got in the way (see: “Ramsey Lake protection study work slows to a trickle”, CBC, February 9, 2015). If this is true, it’s an unacceptable circumstance, as the long-term health of our drinking water source should be of paramount importance to the corporation of the City of Greater Sudbury.

In the past, I’ve written extensively on the need for a Ramsey Lake watershed study to assist decision-makers in guiding new development proposals (see: “Lack of Attention to Lake Water Quality Contributing to Systemic Public Concerns in Greater Sudbury”, the Sudbury Media Co-Op, July 27, 2014; “Knee-Jerk Reaction on Parking Lot Approval Another Missed Opportunity to Prioritize Livability in Greater Sudbury”, August 12, 2014; and, “May: Planning needed to protect water”, the Sudbury Star, August 16, 2014). I continue to maintain that the City’s long-term economic interests would be best served by completing the Ramsey Lake Watershed Study.

Until the Ramsey Lake Watershed Study has been completed, I urge Council to consider freezing new development within the watershed. Under Section 38 of the Planning Act, Council has the authority to enact an interim control by-law which would prohibit new development proposals going forward until such a time that an appropriate study to guide development has been completed – in this case, the Ramsey Lake watershed study. Further, Council should set aside funding for the completion of this priority study in the 2015 budget.

I sincerely hope that the Finance and Administration Committee take these requests seriously. For too long, the City has been dithered over the Ramsey Lake watershed study – a study called for in our Official Plan. Development has continued to proceed in the watershed, and the consequences of those decisions are largely unknown. In the future, we taxpayers could be paying for decisions made without the benefit of the best available information.

Please enact an Interim Control By-law for the Ramsey Lake watershed, and fund the Ramsey Lake Watershed study.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

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