NEC backs Mid-peninsula environmental review

May 23, 2003 Irene Gentle The Flamborough Post

Opponents of the proposed Mid-peninsula Hwy. have found a friend in the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

The provincial body forged to protect the Niagara Escarpment ruled recently that it is strongly in favour of a full environmental assessment for the road that could link the Niagara area to the GTA through one of four proposed routes.

Currently, the province is attempting to set approve a terms of reference for an EA.

Expired

A comment period on what should be in those terms of reference expired Wednesday.

The ministry of transportation Ontario is now meant to look at the comments and come up with a plan, which would go to the Ministry of Environment for approval.

But critics, such as Jason Thorne of the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment, maintain that a full EA is vital to ensure the environment is best served.

"We won't accept a scoped EA," said Thorne, who is the executive director of CONE, a coalition of environmental groups that acts as an unofficial watchdog over escarpment lands. "We want them to withdraw their terms of reference and start over."

So his group was thrilled that the NEC came to basically the same conclusion.

First provincial support

"We're really happy. This is the first provincial agency that has commented and I think that's significant," he said of the verdict. "The more who are singing the same chorus, the harder it is to ignore that."

Also thrilled are members of the grassroots organization Citizen's opposed to paving the Escarpment (COPE).

It was forged to oppose the proposed road that they feel is likely unnecessary and will put both the environment and people's health at risk.

Sue McMaster, a Troy resident and vice-chair of COPE, travelled to the NEC meeting held in Georgetown recently to plead with them to put the escarpment first in their message to the province.

"I like to think that those wise words helped," she joked afterwards, adding "There is definitely a pro-development slant on the NEC right now. We asked them to remember their status as protector's of the escarpment."

Smart growth

McMaster reminded the group also of an earlier desire it had expressed to match the progress of the road with Ontario's Smart Growth planning.

Though the NEC has a generally respected voice, it is only one of the agencies commenting on the proposed EA terms of reference for the road. The City of Burlington also expressed grave misgivings about the process and has stated it could launch legal proceedings to ensure an appropriate EA takes place.

But Hamilton council, on the recommendation of staff, recently endorsed the mid-peninsula.

"It's not surprising," said McMaster of that decision. "It's a little disappointing. It isn't really thought out."

For more information on COPE, log on to www.stophighway.com.

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