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2007 Annual Report

Message from Chair - Water - Cool, clean and clear - for now - Environment - Wetlands and Woodlands (a.k.a. "Marshes and Forests") - Haul Route - Truck Traffic - Health - Protecting the Water We Drink and The Air We Breathe - Concluding Comments - Financials - Volunteer Committee - Public Activity Report - References

Environment - Wetlands and Woodlands
(a.k.a. "Marshes and Forests")

When my Mom asks me what I do all day in the summer, I usually say "Nothing," but that's not really true. I watch things. Sometimes I take a pail and a magnifying glass so I can study them. Like tadpoles. I haven't been able to catch one turn into a frog yet, but some day I will. This spring, I'd like to see birds' eggs hatch and watch the babies grow. I have to figure that out still.

I spent my youth hiking these woods, and mucking about in the swamps. The biodiversity in there is astonishing. It's just like everything I read in the reports. What I don't understand is how an area declared a natural heritage system can even be considered for a quarry. There has to be a way of saying early on that some ideas are just non-starters!

We applaud Gord Miller, Ontario's independent Environmental Commissioner. He "gets" our situation. In his 2007 Annual Report, Mr. Miller calls for the introduction of a decision point in the early stages of the aggregate application process, where proposals that conflict with identified natural heritage or source water protection values take a different path than those with minimal conflict.7 This recommendation would allow for such applications to be ruled on more quickly than is now possible. It also discourages submissions of incremental changes by proponents to make a bad application better over a period of years. Mr. Miller's recognizes that communities can be crippled for a decade or more while a developer moves along the current single path process.

The aggregate industry submits that extraction is an interim land use, and it is, if one considers three generations and more to be "interim". Inevitably there is the stated intention to rehabilitate the land, but the environmental implications for the short and long term are profound. FORCE is not alone in identifying these issues, and that's where the multitude of "little things", along with Mr. Miller's last three Annual Reports, will at some point accumulate to create an environmental tipping point. Specifically,

Although each of these measures offers hope, the PTTW for GRS could cause environmental harm. The September 2006 letter to the MOE from Gartner Lee Ltd. that described the testing identified that Test 1 involves no mitigation. "During this test, the water will be pumped to Mountsberg Creek and no recirculation of groundwater will occur".11 That's a problem.

Aquatic life forms that are sensitive to changes in pH and temperature are at risk as millions of litres of water are dumped into the creek. If that were not enough, the process of pumping millions of litres of water will create drawdowns in wetlands, and when wetlands become too dry, all the characteristics that make them unique eco-systems are gone. Many species accustomed to having their roots and "toes" wet, can disappear - for good. That worries us, and this is only the testing phase.

Mr. Miller served notice that he will be watching our Community file, and in future Annual Reports, may review some, or all, of the ministry decisions on the approvals required in this case.12 We welcome his vigilance.

Granting this permit to take water, which also involves the testing of an unproven GRS, could pose risks to the environment. It's our belief that the McGuinty government knows what the right decision is, and that is to deny the permit.

My land has been farmed for the last century. It fed three generations before my family. I don't see any good coming from this quarry. My crops could be smothered in dust; the well will likely run dry; and it may cost me my life to take the tractor down the Millburough Line. I see farming becoming a whole lot harder than it already is. If you gave people the choice between more plentiful stone close to markets or more plentiful food close to home, I think the answer would be obvious.

Rural communities thrive when there are many farms and the services that support them. Take the farms away, one by one, and watch the feed mill operator, the farm equipment retailer, and the veterinarian pull up stakes and leave town. That will be our future if this quarry gets approved.

Did you see the poster at the ST MARYS 2nd Haul Route meeting with all the local business identified? But were there any dots marking farms as businesses? Not a one! What an insult!

Despite the fact that not a single farm was identified as a local business on the poster boards presented at the November PIC, the Haul Route presentations finally put our local farming issues "on the map". Mental images were invoked during the question period of farmers on tractors trying to cross the road, as truck after truck barrelled along in each direction. There was also the realization that road dust and quarry dust will land on the food crops we buy at farmers' gates.

In its Agricultural Action Plans, the City of Hamilton addressed economic viability for the long term, with the top two goals being:

These goals make sense to our community. After all, "he best way to protect farmland is to ensure that farmers can make a decent living."14

This quarry application qualifies as a conflicting use. The farms in our community are being threatened by the imposition of the 7th largest quarry in Canada into the midst of a diverse and successful agricultural industry that supports forage & grain crops, greenhouses, beef, lamb, poultry, market gardening, equine breeding & training, and apple orchards. Financial sustainability will become more challenging if wells dry up, crops are damaged, livestock is spooked, and traveling between fields becomes a hazard.

Farming is hard enough without the threat of a quarry. If farmers give up and "quit their day jobs" then selling the land is an easy next step. Shopping at the farmers' gate and farm market then becomes a story we tell our grandchildren about the "good old days". Protecting crops from quarry dust, diesel exhaust and dry wells is not just about saving farm land, it's good for our community health.


Together We Will Succeed!