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Friday, December 28, 2007

Lake Simcoe Fishing Update

Simcoe Lake

Ice in the Virginia Beach-Sutton area hardened to seven inches by Monday, but walkers and light machine runners could only reach shelves of less than 15 feet.

Smaller perch dominated first — ice forays off Virginia Beach, with most holes good for runt runs, with a rare ringback measuring 10 inches. Tonawanda ice antic Al Tomasello enjoyed a run at these runs and felt secure on solid ice there, but said “It was a bit unsettling to see [boats] traveling to and from Georgina Island while standing on that ice.”

Cooks Bay ice hardened to eight inches in places, but the overall bay has varying depths, with walkers and only light ATV’s able to cross.

Rick “Whitey” Arsenault offers the same cautious warning to anglers he gave last week: “They [small hut owners] are out there over six feet, but they can’t chance a run to the 16-foot depths and deeper just yet.” Arsenault noted some perch and a few pike reports have come in, but the main run has not begun.

Check with him at (905) 476-2652 or visit his Web site: Cattaraugus Creek

Feeder streams flushed most ice cover and smaller streams opened to steelhead trout activity, with Cattaraugus Creek offering the most access.

Waders and shore casters do better with bait than hardware offerings. Salted minnows, egg sacks and skein all do well.

The breakwall walkway at the access slowed, but most pools and riffle edges from the Route 5 and 20 bridge up to Gowanda and Springville showed good numbers of both resident and “green” arrivals from Lake Erie.

Anglers fishing Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) waters of the Catt will need to renew that SNI fishing license before heading to Cattaraugus fishing sites on and after Tuesday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Last Friday’s Ontario Municipal Board decision approving the Big Bay Point Resort didn’t totally clear the road for construction.

Developer Geranium Corporation will have two major studies to do before any groundbreaking can occur: a pilot project to assess the resort’s impact on the functioning of the Alcona sewage treatment plant, which also involves improving technology to reduce phosphorous despite the increased load; and an Environmental Assessment (EA) examining how to extend servicing to not only the resort but its neighbours.

“Before development can proceed, there will be a pilot project for the sewage system and it will have to demonstrate the phosphorous (emissions) will not increase. Whether you call that a challenge or not, I wouldn’t say. It’s a threshold,” said Town of Innisfil solicitor Quinto Annibale, of Loopstra Nixon LLP.

Geranium is also proposing installing over-sized servicing pipes to the Big Bay Point area, which will allow 1,600 residents to hook up to the municipal sewage treatment system.

“Currently, a septic system is considered not good for the lake; to hook into the municipal system is preferable.

“Alcona does the capacity to deal with the effluent. On top of that, the additional control mechanisms for this pilot project, as well as monitoring and phasing provisions in the planning documents, will ensure there’s not only enough treatment capacity for this development, but also for the existing committed development in the municipality.”

That would assure Innisfil planned growth can be accommodated without adversely impacting the lake, he explained.

The EA would determine the path of the servicing pipe, estimate costs and project phasing.

Municipalities must do EAs, which ultimately require provincial approval, for servicing changes and upgrades, large or small, as well as for projects in other areas such as road extensions or reroutings.

But while those sound relatively simple and routine, the resort could face a freeze, as Ontario has imposed phosphorous limits on the 15 sewage treatment plants surrounding the lake, as part of its plan to protect Lake Simcoe, said environmental lawyer David Donnelly, who led the opposition to the resort on behalf of Nextnine Limited, a numbered company and the Innisfil District Association.

“They’re caught by the regulations. We don’t know what’s in the (proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act), because it’s not written yet. I would predict it’s highly unlikely the government would now allow a developer to buy 600 acres and dig a big hole in the ground, put in 2,000 units and call it a resort,” Donnelly said in an interview.

He added the government will also not allow the Alcona sewage treatment plant to expand – based on Dec. 6 Ministry of the Environment statements to improve sewage treatment standards in the Lake Simcoe basin. In 2006, the 15 sewage treatment plants in the area discharged a total of 5.9 tonnes of phosphorous into the lake, although they are legally permitted to discharge up to 12.5 tonnes per year.

The province is proposing an interim regulation to prevent a new sewage treatment facility in the Lake Simcoe basin if the discharge will result in more phosphorous, as well as imposing annual phosphorous loading limits on the existing plants until March 31, 2009.

The province’s initiative also includes an $850,000 study to examine how to reduce the phosphorous going into the lake, as well as setting stricter limits for other phosphorous and other pollutants.

Still, Geranium’s lawyer Michael Melling suggested the developer could play an integral role in the province’s Lake Simcoe protection efforts, with its pilot study and EA.

“Our client’s intention is to put the pedal to the metal in 2008,” he said, acknowledging the work ahead in those studies.

“It will help the government in its recently announced initiatives to reduce the phosphorous levels. It all fits together very nicely.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

OMB decision on Big Bay Point Resort

NNISFIL, ON, Dec. 14 /CNW/ - After earning widespread support over five years of public meetings and design workshops, Geranium Corporation today welcomed the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruling that clears the way for the Big Bay Point Resort. The OMB decision comes one month after the conclusion of more than three months of public hearings, which began August 8th and concluded on November 14th.

The resort proposal has earned the support of the Town of Innisfil, the County of Simcoe, the province of Ontario and the largest local ratepayers groups in Innisfil and local environmentalists.

"For economic reasons, this is a great decision for the Town of Innisfil and the County of Simcoe, but more importantly, it's also a great environmental victory for Lake Simcoe, and for those people who, like myself, are truly committed to improving the quality of the Lake," noted Geranium president Earl Rumm.

In addition to setting aside one-third of the resort property as an environmentally-protected area, qualified professional scientists have conducted repeated, extensive peer-reviewed environmental studies over the last five years, which have proven beyond any doubt that the resort will help improve the water quality of Lake Simcoe by reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake.

The resort itself will be built to the high environmental standards of LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Geranium will also pay the approximately $10 million cost of extending sewer service from the Alcona Waste Water Treatment plant to the resort. That extension will give 1600 existing homeowners now on septic systems, and a private golf course whose owners opposed the resort, the opportunity to make the environmentally responsible choice to get off septics and onto sewers.

"Geranium looks forward to the upcoming consultations promised by Premier McGuinty when he announced his intention to introduce a Lake Simcoe Act. As environmentally progressive and responsible developers, we have led by example and will be encouraging both existing and future residents around the lake, as well as other developers, to 'walk the talk' when it comes to protecting Lake Simcoe," concludes Rumm.

Big Bay Point Resort Fact Sheet

Size and location: 239 hectares (590 acres) in the north eastern part of the Town of Innisfil on Big Bay Point between the shores of Kempenfelt Bay and the open waters of Lake Simcoe, bounded by Lake Simcoe to the east, the 13th Line to the south, and Big Bay Point Road to the north and west. The central portion of the property, 87.5 hectares (216 acres) in size, is to be designated an Environmental Protection Area.
Marina: The site currently includes a 375-slip marina which is no longer in operation. When re-developed and enlarged, the new marina component will contain a maximum of 1,000 boat slips.

Accommodation: A maximum of 2,000 resort accommodation units will be constructed, consisting of 400 hotel units and 1,600 resort units, all of which are subject to occupancy restrictions and none of which may be permanently occupied.

Golf Course: A championship 18-hole golf course designed by Doug Carrick will be built and maintained to the stringent environmental standards of Audubon International.

The process that led to approval: During the almost five year approval process that began in 2002, both the County of Simcoe and the Town of Innisfil retained peer reviewers in various technical disciplines to assist their respective staff in assessing the resort proposal and the technical materials submitted in support of it. This resulted in a significant body of reports both from the staff and peer reviewers and documents a careful, thorough and intense level of scrutiny of all aspects of the project. The review process by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the County and the Town also involved receiving and analyzing comments by other public authorities and agencies, including the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, which has no objection to the development proposal, provided that its conditions are satisfied. The proposal has the support of the democratically elected representatives of the Province, Town and County. The public had a full opportunity to participate in the planning approval process, including the hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board. Public input has been received and considered by the Province, Town and County and the expressed concerns of members of the public have been specifically addressed.

Provincial government involvement: The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, (MMAH), was the lead ministry and it consulted with and relied on the advice of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment. MMAH's agreement to support the development proposal was not forthcoming until Geranium produced satisfactory studies and reports on matters of provincial interest.

Economic Benefits: The Big Bay Point Resort will have a wide range of positive economic impacts, including:

- 3600 person-years of employment during construction
- $1.2 million in building permit fees
- $17.7 million in development charges for the Town, County and school
- 940 permanent jobs upon completion, making the resort the Town's
largest employer by a factor of more than 4 times
- $50 million in purchases of goods and services, (appliances,
furnishings, etc), as a result of the initial sale of units
- $35 million in annual retail spending by owners, renters and visitors
once the resort is operating, part of which will flow to Town
businesses outside the resort
- In terms of municipal services and expenditures, it will operate on a
fiscal surplus at both the Town and County levels
- It will help meet the economic objectives outlined in by the province
and the county

Environmental Protection and Benefits: The resort will ensure protection
of natural heritage features as well as water quality and quantity. The resort
is required to meet the same tests for the protection of the environment as
those set out by the province and the county. The resort offers protection,
enhancements and benefits that go beyond those required including:

- the preservation of an Environmental Protection Area containing
87 hectares of woodlands and wetlands
- a much more stringent policy protection for the Environmental
Protection area than permitted under the previous "Greenlands"
designation applicable to these lands, which would have permitted
farming, golf courses, resorts and housing; none of these uses will
now be permitted under the new designation
- the Environmental Protection Area will be required to be transferred
to public ownership or be subject to other protection measures such
as a conservation easement
- Geranium will be required to prepare a Planting or
Reforestation/Compensation Plan prior to any development occurring
- Geranium will be required to replace every hectare of woodland
removed from its lands with a minimum of two hectares of forested and
reforested land to the satisfaction of the Town, County and
Conservation Authority, either through plantings on Geranium lands
and/or through the conveyance to a public authority of off-site
forested lands
- a substantial reduction in phosphorus loading to the marina basin and
Lake Simcoe, up to 54% less than caused by existing uses on the site,
thus meeting or exceeding the lake-wide reduction target encouraged
by the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy, (LSEMS)
- Audubon International certification for construction and operation of
the golf course. This entails the highest standards of environmental
performance in the golf industry. It provides external third party
guidance and review of all environmental measures introduced during
the design and operation of the golf course. After certification,
annual follow-up water monitoring and reporting continues for the
lifetime of the course
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification
for the resort itself
- Development and operation of the marina in accordance with the "Clean
Marine" program, which is a tool kit of best management practices for
marina operations. Like the Audubon certification, the Clean Marine
program includes a third-party audit and it is a program designed for
Ontario marinas and deals with federal and provincial regulations
- A net gain in the amount of available fish habitat; over 3 times that
which is currently present, along with an opportunity to improve the
quality of the fish habitat from the existing situation
- Use of best management practices for stormwater management, including
pumping stormwater from the marina village to a stormwater treatment
pond within the golf course area that can then be used for golf
course irrigation
- Use of "LID", (low impact development), techniques, including a new
land use and engineering design approach that will preserve natural
heritage areas and minimize pollutants
- A commitment to superior sewage treatment using advanced phosphorus
removal technologies
- An amphibian and reptile habitat enhancement program which will be
reviewed by the Town, County and Province
- Requirements for environmental stewardship and education, including
production of an educational brochure for all purchasers, users and
visitors to the resort

Additional Benefits: In addition to the economic and environmental
benefits, the following will also be achieved:

- increased recreational and cultural amenities for residents of
- improved transportation networks, including a public collector road
through the project which will provide a second point of access for
Big Bay Point residents
- the addition of an emergency vehicle connection at the terminus of
Maple Grove Road, providing an important emergency access for the
residents to the south of Big Bay Point
- the extension of municipal wastewater services to make them
accessible to cottages and homes within the designated shoreline
areas and the Big Bay Point area that are currently on private
services, thus providing even greater reductions in phosphorus
loading into Lake Simcoe
- the extension of municipal water services to the same area described
- the donation of land for and construction of a civic facility for a
use such as a fire station in the southwest part of the resort lands

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Money for Lake seen as positive move

Ontario is “dipping its toe into the waters of the campaign to save Lake Simcoe,” says Environmental Defence lawyer David Donnelly.

Donnelly was reacting to a Dec. 6 announcement that includes an $850,000 investment to study the sources of phosphorous as well as raise public awareness about how people can reduce their phosphorous footprint.

“It’s a good first step towards synthesizing and coming up with options for a solution to protect Lake Simcoe,” said Donnelly.

“Everybody has agreed on two basic things: we need to reduce the amount of phosphorous going into the lake, and we need to find a way to reduce the intensity of land uses and recreational uses within the watershed, whether agricultural, boating, urban sprawl or new infrastructure.”

According to the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy, the largest source of phosphorous is run-off from the lake’s tributary rivers and streams, followed by atmospheric sources and thirdly by urban runoff; the lesser sources in descending order are septic tanks, effluent from sewage treatment plans and the Holland Marsh.

The next step the province should take, Donnelly noted, would be to designate a greenbelt – or perhaps more appropriately a natural heritage protection area – in Simcoe County.

“We can designate prime agricultural areas and a natural heritage system and make sure those are permanently protected,” he said, adding 40 per cent of Lake Simcoe’s shoreline is already protected by Ontario’s greenbelt; something needs to be done about the remaining 60 per cent, however.

“That’s bad planning. We have to expand that (greenbelt or protective status).”

A member of Campaign Lake Simcoe Coalition, Environmental Defence also called for an act that outlines a comprehensive plan to protect the lake.

The latest provincial announcement is a follow-up to an announcement made July 6 at the Lake Simcoe Summit, that the province would create a Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

The Ministry of the Environment is proposing tightening sewage treatment standards and setting stricter limits for pollutants, including phosphorous. Phosphorous encourages the growth of plant life in the lake, and reduces the amount of oxygen for fish, particularly cold-water species like lake trout and lake whitefish.

The City of Barrie hailed the $850,000 investment, which the province says will include a variety of stakeholders, as municipalities in the area examine how to manage and better plan for growth.

Barrie is investing $110 million in expanding its sewage treatment plant and bio-solids storage facility as the city grows and intensifies.

“An additional investment in membrane technology for the sewage plant would allow us to manage all of the growth the province has planned for the Barrie area for the foreseeable future and will position Barrie at the forefront of the environment,” said Barrie’s community services commissioner Richard Forward.

Police don't suspect foul play in Barrie fire

Police don't suspect foul play in Barrie fire

There is no indication of foul play in the fire that destroyed a historic building in downtown Barrie early Friday, police have told CTV.

Authorities from the Fire Marshal's Office were at the scene this weekend evaluating the devastation.

The fire started after an explosion in the Royal Thai Cuisine Restaurant. At least six buildings were destroyed, among them the landmark Wellington Hotel, in a portion of the downtown district that was established in 1814.

About 20 people who lived in apartments in the devastated buildings are now looking for new accommodations.
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The Globe and Mail

Dozens of firefighters from neighbouring communities rushed to the scene, pumping in water from Lake Simcoe to extinguish the blaze.

Seventy-five firefighters from four municipalities responded to the call at 11:35 on Thursday night. They faced three flashovers - where a ball of fire consumes everything in a room. Firefighters were also slipping and sliding on ice that formed as the temperature dipped to -10.

One firefighter suffered a dislocated shoulder. However, no other injuries were reported.

Fire officials estimated the damage to be in the millions of dollars.

Municipal leaders, in the midst of a downtown revitalization plan, vowed to help the affected businesses and residents, but see it as an opportunity to create a new landmark building.

The massive fire was the second to strike a prominent Georgian Bay community in a week.

A blaze that erupted along the main strip at Wasaga Beach destroyed up to 70 per cent of the tourist area's businesses