- Dave Le Gard, Fallowfield Road resident

From ...


August 9, 2005


Letter: Complexing is a violation of natural justice

Dear Editor:

The Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, Southern Manual provides guidance for the biologists whose job is to evaluate wetlands. This is a 200 page document that provides guidance on two topics: what is a wetland and what is a Provincially Significant Wetland?

On the first question, the manual appears to be designed to allow the evaluator maximum discretion in determining that an area is a wetland.


"Land does not need to be wet to be wetland"

                      - Susan Murphey, City of Ottawa Coordinator for wetland evaluations


For instance, the manual talks about four types of wetland - marsh, swamp, bog, and fen, which we would all recognize as wetlands. However, the technical definition is so much more general and leads to nonsense such as the statement by Susan Murphey, the city of Ottawa's coordinator of the proposed re-evaluation of land southwest of Stittsville as wetlands, that "land does not need to be wet to be wetland" (interview with Dave Stephens on Radio Morning, CBC Radio One, June 8th, 2005).

The designation of a wetland is based on the plant population alone. The evaluation system doesn't care care if property is wet; doesn't care why the property is wet -i.e. city drainage policies; doesn't care what was there yesterday or will be there tomorrow.

The sole criteria is that 50 percent of the plant species must be wetland plants (or, more specifically, plants on the OWES manual's list of indicator species for wetland plants, most of which happily grow in non-wet environments).

In fact, problems on some of the designated properties are caused by spring flooding and, more specifically, by the city of Ottawa's failure to provide adequate drainage. The city is draining areas to the north of the designated area, but making no provision for the increased water flow to pass through the area. The city has a clear legal responsibility to provide such drainage.

So the process goes like this:

City fails to provide drainage
Causes spring flooding on landowners' properties
Causes wetland plants to grow
City sees wetland plants
City designates property

Another example: In the late 80's, tree planting was in vogue and MNR had the Managed Forest Program to advise landowners on what trees to plant and provide assistance in planting them. Some landowners have areas of tamaraks, recommended by MNR and planted under the Managed Forest Program. Guess what? Tamaraks are an indicator species for wetlands.


Province recommends tamaraks
Landowner plants tamaraks
City sees tamaraks
City designates property

The second type of wetland is the Provincially Significant Wetland, and it is this designation that causes problems, limits the landowner's rights and devalues properties. The Provincially Significant designation is desirable from the city's perspective precisely because it limits the landowner's rights to make changes to the wetland.

In the case of the landowners west of Stittsville, the vast majority of the designated properties are not Provincially Significant in their own right; at best they are marginal wetlands. The city and the province have got around this inconvenience using the 'complexing' rules.

Complexing allows a basic wetland to be deemed Provincially Significant if it is within 750 metres of an existing Provincially Significant wetland. The new Provincially Significant Wetlandcan then be used to complex further wetlands, using the same rules.

Complexingallows the city and province to designate properties as Provincially Significant, without the inconvenience or cost of having to meet Provincially Significant wetlands standards.

Complexing allows the city and province to designate marginal wetlands as Provincially Significant - wetland that would never meet Provincially Significant Wetlands standards on its own merits.

Complexing is fundamentally unjust and must be disallowed.

Dave Le Gard
Fallowfield Road