Recent Media Coverage

Huge new campaign to save Moraine

Post City Magazines

October 2011

By Sabrina Nanji

Environmental groups have launched a new campaign to address the environmental issues affecting the Moraine lands that were not covered in the original Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act 10 years ago.

With the added attention offered by the provincial election, Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM), Ontario Nature and Earthroots have joined forces to form the Moraine Can’t Wait campaign and lobby politicians to have the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act reviewed before its set date in 2015.

“We can’t wait another four years,” said Josh Garfinkel, senior campaigner at Earthroots. “Initially [the plan] was supposed to come up for review in 2011, but then the Greenbelt was created, which pushed the review back to 2015.”

According to Garfinkel, the laws protecting the Moraine lands put in place 10 years ago are now obsolete.

“In the years since, there have been a number of activities that fall through the cracks of the plan,” said Debbe Crandall, executive director of STORM. “Those are what we identify as assaults to the Oak Ridges Moraine.”

Crandall and Garfinkel, who have spearheaded the new campaign, said that commercial fill operations, unmonitored water taking and new infrastructure are among some of the concerns not addressed in the plan.

After a random sample from a sand and gravel pit on Lake Ridge Road, near Uxbridge, showed signs of contamination, Garfinkel said the need for close monitoring became paramount.

“It was one random sample,” he said. “It’s hard for anyone to guess how much dirt is being brought up from the GTA. It’s hard to guess if it’s clean, and we can’t say if it is one way or the other, so there is no one actually tracking this process.”

Oak Ridges councillor, Greg Beros, said that the Moraine lands are in the hands of the provincial government, a fact that is often forgotten.

“Sometimes, some of the requests, they’re not reasonable,” said Beros. “We don’t have a choice because the province said it’s [designated] as settlement. There’s more land than you can imagine that is not allowed to be built on, for various scientific reasons … that’s designated as natural core.”

The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act states that land designation dictates what can or cannot be built on the Moraine lands. “Settlement” lands can be built on, whereas lands under “natural core” designation cannot, Beros added.

“At the next review, as I understand it, landowners are going to make an argument to have their land designation changed,” said Beros.

Last month, the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of an application to build a 400-unit development on Moraine lands, which Beros said was designated as settlement, giving the developer the green light to build.

Crandall believes infrastructure in Richmond Hill and York Region pose major threats to the Moraine. As part of the campaign’s status report, Crandall said documenting an inventory of the infrastructure was eye-opening.

“You look at [the map] of York Region, and it looks like it has measles. The road widening, sewer systems, the small pipes going to subdivisions … it’s a proliferation of the infrastructure. That’s the biggest issue in Richmond Hill.”

Beros said, “There are still municipalities that are not as up to speed as Richmond Hill in their environmental programs.”

But Crandall said the fight to save the Moraine has reached its climax. “There’s greater passion, greater momentum and more people fighting for the Moraine now than there was 10 years ago.”

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