The Oak Ridges Steering Committee (Toronto Council Subcommittee on the Oak Ridges Moraine) has completed its mandate and is no longer active. The following information is provided for archival purposes.
Message from Chair David Miller on Why Protecting the Moraine Matters to Toronto
The Oak Ridges Moraine is one of the last continuous greenbelts in southern Ontario - it is a green oasis to many species of plants and wildlife, including threatened species. A treasure to the environment, with its thousands of wetlands and kettle lakes, it is also home to the headwaters of 65 river systems including Toronto's Don, Rouge and Humber Rivers.
Toronto has undertaken a number of projects to improve and protect the quality of the city's rivers and Lake Ontario water. The city has supported the Toronto Remedial Action Plan (RAP) through the remediation of several wetlands and there are plans to revitalize the waterfront and clean up the contaminated portlands.
The Wet Weather Flow Management Master Plan will identify how to deal with storm water as a resource to be used in a positive way in the city's environment. Two underground detention tanks at Toronto's eastern beaches have been built which capture and hold combined sewer overflows and storm water, and the city is working with the citizen-led Task Force to Bring Back the Don. But the value of these efforts will be lost if there isn't adequate protection upstream.
The City of Toronto believes any development on these ecologically-sensitive lands will have significant effects on areas beyond its boundaries, including our quality of life and water. We are working with other groups and organizations to help protect the entire 160 kms stretch of the moraine from the Niagara Escarpment to Rice Lake.
Over the past few years the City of Toronto and its predecessor, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, have spent significant time and money to try to clean up our local environment. We are building the Western Beaches Storm Water Storage Tunnel, the Western Beaches Boardwalk and are building innovative, non-structural alternatives in High Park. Together these initiatives will help clean the Western Beaches so we can swim with our children once again.
The one remaining threat to all of this is residential development on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The moraine, which is on the headwater of the Humber, Rouge and Don rivers acts like a giant sponge absorbing rain and snow melt. This underground water is then stored through layers of sand and gravel (aquifers), filtered and slowly released as cool fresh water to rivers flowing toward Lake Ontario.
As Chair of the Oak Ridges Moraine Steering Committee I am working to save this natural treasure, one of the last-remaining continuous greenbelts in southern Ontario.
We believe the province was wrong to reject our appeal under the Environmental Bill of Rights for a review of its policy on the moraine. The province needs to take more responsibility for the conservation of this critically important eco-region. We have followed up on the province's refusal to undertake this policy review directly with the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gordon Miller. In our application to the Environmental Commissioner we show how the existing planning system is damaging the moraine, and outline a series of immediate and long-term
measures the Ontario government can take to add more certainty and clarity to planning for moraine protection.
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The Ministry of Municipal Affairs should place a temporary moratorium on new development on the moraine until longer-term measures can be put in place. This is our chance to save these natural forests, wetlands and water resources for today and future generations.