As you know, the OWES is a science-based ranking system that provides a standardized approach to determining the relative value of wetlands. OWES assessments are necessary to designate Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs). This designation in turn results in a high level of protection under provincial law and policy such as the Provincial Policy Statement (sections 2.1.4, 2.1.5 and 2.1.8). Yet the complete overhaul of the OWES, as proposed, will ensure that very few wetlands would be deemed provincially significant in the future and that many if not most existing PSWs could lose that designation. As a result, very few of Ontario’s wetlands would benefit in the future from the protection that PSW designation currently provides. We urge you not to proceed with the proposed changes to the OWES, for the reasons outlined below.
Bill 229 is just the most recent in a long list of omnibus bills containing devastating amendments, exemptions and streamlining of key environmental policy and legislation designed to protect our environment and communities and provide the public and stakeholders with meaningful input. These government actions have created a deep erosion of public trust and confidence. It is unacceptable that it would mislead its citizens and bypass the norms by taking advantage of a world-wide health emergency to aggressively push their destructive agenda through.
While the effects of large hydro projects (200 MW) have been well known and documented for over a century, small (up to 10 MW) and medium sized (10 MW to 200 MW) hydroelectric projects involve many of the same impacts per unit of power generated and, cumulatively, the environmental degradation can exceed that of large hydro projects. Small and medium sized hydro projects are situated on smaller and often more sensitive riverine ecosystems; however, like large hydro projects, will also alter the river’s flow regime and can have significant impacts on the aquatic environment, as flow is a major determinant of a river’s ecological characteristics and its aquatic biodiversity.
A recent study examined scaled hydropower impacts in the Nu River basin of southwestern China, where the researchers calculated impact per MW of capacity across 14 metrics between small and large hydropower projects (with small being below 50 MW as defined in Chinese policy). They found that small hydropower dams had greater impact per MW for 9 of the 14 metrics, including length of river channel affected and impact on habitat designated as conservation priorities.
As a basic, the province must have a comprehensive approach to watershed management through flood mapping, mitigation and hazard planning and protection, including services such as wetland protection, climate change adaptation and resilience, biodiversity health and land use planning. In other words, we must be beefing up our public safety and environmental protection efforts, rather than gutting and streamlining key policy and legislation, as well as funding for our regulators.
Reversing wetland loss means more than stopping the loss. It means turning things around to achieve net gain of wetland area and function. It will require prioritizing the protection and enhancement of existing wetlands, as well as adopting an effective plan to ensure that wetland…
Sustainable management of natural resources such as forests, soils, water, wetlands and fisheries are at the heart of conservation, and these resources are the building blocks for green cities, energy production, agriculture, water supply and sanitation systems. Relatively stable ecosystems and species dynamics are indicative of sustainable resource use, and conservation science has been broadening this knowledge to buffer ecosystems and species from negative climate change impacts.