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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Plans for Simcoe Wind Farm

After months of planning and preparation, there’s a concrete plan in place for a proposed wind farm in the area.In a recent letter to Brock Township, AIM (Air in Motion) PowerGen Corporation unveiled the preliminary design for the project, which would likely include 18 turbines.According to the letter, AIM has signed option agreements with local landowners. In all, approximately 90 landowners in the area have signed letters of interest in the projects, with the majority of the properties lying north of Highway 48 and west of Regional Road 23.According to the township’s deputy clerk-administrator Thom Gettinby, the letter is simply meant to inform council of the company’s plans and is not a formal application.Council members have requested AIM officials to make a presentation at the Township office in the new year.Representatives from AIM PowerGen have met with council numerous times over the past few years regarding its plan to establish a wind farm across 2,000 acres in the Beaverton area — to Port Bolster and Pefferlaw in the south and  north to Lagoon City and Brechin.After proposing the idea more than two years ago, AIM officials have spent much of the past year analyzing data from test towers in Brock and Ramara.The proposal, titled the Simcoe Shores Wind Farm, would cover the shoreline of Lake Simcoe with anywhere from 20 to 50 turbines, taking advantage of the strong winds blowing off the water.As construction costs are so great, the turbines would likely be in place for a minimum of 20 years.In addition to the proposed project locally, the company is developing a handful of other wind farms around the country, most notably the Erie Shores Wind Farm in western Ontario.AIM secured the wind power development rights to more than 13,000 acres in three municipalities along a 29-kilometre stretch of shoreline on the north shore of Lake Erie.It is widely considered to be one of the most advanced wind-energy projects in the province and was awarded a 20-year contract from the Ontario government for energy generation last December.With 66 turbines, the Erie Shores Wind Farm produces enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.The company is also pursuing other alternative energy projects across Ontario and Canada.

Police warn lakes and streams are still not frozen in area

Police warn lakes and streams are still not frozen in area

The York Regional Police Marine Unit would like to remind everyone of the importance of staying safe this winter season in any outdoor activity they do. Through awareness, enforcement and public education, police are warning citizens to be diligent and stay off the ice until it is safe.

The unseasonably warm weather and rain we have experienced over the last week has prompted York Regional Police to again warn the public that lakes and streams are not frozen and not safe. There are still many areas of open water on Lake Simcoe and ice fishermen and snowmobilers are reminded that conditions are still too dangerous to be out on the ice.

Police are also reminding parents to be diligent and to teach their children to stay away from lakes and streams. The mild weather can result in higher water levels and faster-flowing

currents. Be cautious around any body of water until it is completely frozen.

Remember, no ice is completely safe. Any individual who decides to go out onto a frozen body of water must make a personal decision to do so, realizing that there is a degree of risk associated with this choice.

Ice seldom freezes at a uniform rate. What constitutes a safe depth of ice is difficult to apply in all cases. While three inches of ice on a farm pond may pose little danger, that same three inches on a moving stream or lake with currents could be very dangerous. On any lake, one step from threefoot ice may lead to nothing more than skim ice on the next step.

It is crucial that citizens considering recreation on the ice take individual responsibility in evaluating the quality and soundness of the ice on the particular body of water in question. If you are testing for ice

thickness follow these safety precautions:  Wear proper floatation attire.  Don’t fish or snowmobile alone.  Tell someone about your plans and specifically where you are going.  Know the condition of the ice before you go out and take into consideration the recent changes the weather may have had on the ice.  Be suspicious of gray, dark or porous spots in the ice as these may be soft areas. Ice is generally strongest where it is hard and blue.

Police are reminding the public that snowmobiling and ice-fishing are inherently risky activities, occurring in an uncontrolled and unpredictable natural setting. If you make smart, educated choices on safety, accidents can be prevented.

For more information and safety tips, contact the York Regional Police Marine Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext 7300.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Environmental commissioner champions Lake Simcoe

Environmental commissioner champions Lake Simcoe

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller was the keynote speaker recently as the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) announced the first draft of a strategy that would build a One Voice Action Plan to restore and protect Lake Simcoe and its watershed.

Contributors to the report agreed that urgent help is needed to ensure the long-term health of the lake.

“The landscape is changing, and this brings new challenges,” Miller commented. “We are here today to renew our commitment to the lake and this will require courage and innovation; courage to provide the money and effort that is required, and innovation in new approaches to land use planning.”

LSRCA drafted the report to capture all of the public and stakeholder consultations that have been conducted during the past two and a half years.

“Together, we’ve worked hard to engage everyone in consultation, and this report represents what you’ve told us,” CAO Gayle Wood told attendees. “Now we want our partners and stakeholders to respond to this draft and to help us turn this strategy into action.”

The consultations involved area municipalities, stakeholder groups, provincial and federal government agencies, developers, citizens, First Nations, community organizations, scientific experts, The Conservation Authority, as well as the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation. The process included identification of the major issues and challenges, a Lake Simcoe conference, public open houses, focus group workshops, partner and stakeholder workshops, and a study of the best practices of other watershed models.

The draft report highlights signs of gradual improvement in the environmental health of the watershed.

“Phosphorus levels are down, and dissolved oxygen levels are up,” Wood said. “These are encouraging signs that we’re going in the right direction, but there is so much more work to be done.”

She said the effort has been limited by “years of inadequate funding and resources”.

Preliminary estimates indicate that, to accommodate the growth that has already been planned and approved, it could cost $163.5 million to achieve the objectives set out by the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy. These objectives are to restore a self-sustaining coldwater fishery; improve water quality; reduce phosphorus loads; and protect natural heritage features and functions. The current investment in watershed restoration and protection is about $1.1 million a year.

The report listed a number of critical issues identified throughout the consultative process. They included the importance of effective communications, partnerships, stakeholder engagement, leadership and cooperative action.

York-Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan agreed with the need for action that speaks with one voice.

"Governments have a role to play," he observed. “But real change and improvement to Lake Simcoe's environment requires individuals to take responsibility and act for positive change."

"I am very pleased to see the announcement of the One Voice Action Plan,” said York North MPP Julia Munro. “The Conservation Authority has given us the research and expertise to protect Lake Simcoe, and community groups have increased awareness throughout the area. Working together we will do great work to help the lake."

“It’s important that everyone works together on these environmental issues dealing with the lake and the watershed,” said King Councillor Jack Rupke, who represents York Region on LSRCA. “Now we need to continue the process to develop an action plan, and we need to find the financial support to get this important work done.”

As to why LSRCA issued the report at this time, Wood said, “Under our operating agreement with our environmental management strategy partners, the Conservation Authority was given responsibility to report on what has been achieved over the past six years and what actions are planned for 2007 to 2010. The action plan is due in seven months and there is a great deal of work that remains to be done to get this ready. So we have captured the inputs of all of our stakeholders in this strategic document, and now we’re asking them to work with us to develop an action plan by March next year.”

For further information, refer to the draft document and Wood’s presentation, both of which are posted on the Conservation Authority’s Web site at

Monday, December 18, 2006

Growth may overwhelm region, MPP warns

Growth may overwhelm region, MPP warns

Governments must step up to the plate to ensure communities nestled on Lake Simcoe can handle the significant growth that is headed their way, says Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop.
"I'm not going to let it drop, because it is important to me and it is important to my constituents," he said recently.

Dunlop recently won unanimous support for a resolution that seeks to save Lake Simcoe from the impact of development.

The document calls on present and future governments to protect and improve water quality by providing infrastructure dollars necessary to accommodate growth in communities bordering the lake.

Many of those communities continue to rely on private wells and septic systems rather than environmentally-friendly municipal services, Dunlop said.

When the time comes to install sewer and water systems, governments cannot expect residents to shoulder the entire burden, and must be at the ready with funding assistance, he added.

"You can't say in the end that septics don't eventually seep into the water," he said.

"All these (upgrades) we need as the region grows."

A provincially-driven plan that directs much of the region's future growth to areas bordering the lake places added pressure on this important resource, Dunlop said.

The so-called Intergovernmental Action Plan, or IGAP as it has come to be known, names the south end of Simcoe County as the area most likely to house new development.

"They are talking about adding over 250,000 people over 25 years," he added.

"The growth really should be more spread out than that."

Having the Legislative Assembly on record as supporting the resolution represents an important first step in the effort to protect what Dunlop calls "an integral part of the heritage and culture of the region.

"It means governments will have to pay attention to things like the amount of money that is invested in infrastructure," he said.

"It can become part of parties' platforms, it can become a budget item," he added.

The resolution also calls on the province to recognize the work of various stakeholders involved in efforts to promote water-quality protection and improvement of the Lake Simcoe watershed.