On Friday, January 25 2021 we sent an email to Watershed Trust membership inviting them to take part in an online info session about the future of 26/27 Sideroad in Clearview Township. The response was overwhelming, with more than 75 registrants and an outpouring of donations to help back our fight over this contentious issue.

The issue
As you may know, the Township of Clearview intends to close the western section of County Road 91, an inter-county arterial road, and transfer ownership to Walker Aggregates Inc. Clearview proposes to replace this recently refinished road by reconstructing 26/27 Sideroad, currently a narrow seasonal road with a 14% grade that traverses the Niagara Escarpment & most sensitive lands, including precious wetlands.

This would:

  • Degrade a cold-water trout fishery
  • Destroy Escarpment wetlands
  • Create a dangerously steep road
  • Increase traffic on Concession 10
  • Impact inter-county traffic networks
  • Impact efficient commercial transportation

Why your help was needed
Watershed Trust Members and many other concerned citizens attended our information session and donated the funds we needed to stand up to the Township of Clearview. As an official Party to the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office Environmental Review Tribunal (a constituent tribunal of Ontario Land Tribunals), the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust needs to engage legal, environmental, fisheries and engineering experts to advise us and to represent our environmental interests at the hearing. Our own team is strictly volunteer (including pro bono legal counsel: Davies), but we do need to pay our experts.

On February 24 2021 we attended a Pre-Conference Hearing, scheduled to address Clearview’s application for an amendment to the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) and the appeal of a related development permit application for work to 26/27 Sideroad that was denied by the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) back in 2015.

This pre-conference took a few short hours. We learned that the appeal hearing would take place from November 8 to December 17 2021. This is a period of 29 days and far longer than the period the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust had contemplated. We asked why a hearing would need to stretch over an entire month. The answer is that the opposition feels they need all that time. Time, as you know, is money, and Clearview et al clearly have deeper pockets than the Watershed Trust and allies. It’s an old game.

Thank you.
As a result, we have continued our fundraising campaign to further augment our budget for the hearing. To date the campaign has been most successful in obtaining funding from area residents and we thank all those who contributed. We would especially like to thank those who stretched their budgets to make contributions, those who made significant donations, and area businesses who contributed to the campaign (The Maker’s Outpost, Sue A. Miller Art and Duntroon Highlands Golf).

Our role at the Hearing
The Watershed Trust acts as an environmental expert; the NEC relies on us for expert environmental
arguments and testimony. We are preparing two issues for the hearing:
• Alternatives to reconstruction
• Environmental degradation

Alternatives to reconstruction
In fighting this fight, Clearview has not considered the proper study of alternatives required by the
Niagara Escarpment Plan in the closing of 26/27 SR. There are several:
• Reconstruct 26/27 SR as proposed
• Route CR 91 through an exhausted part of the quarry
• Do nothing: don’t close or reroute CR91

Environmental degradation
Clearview’s Environmental Impact Statement did not properly address wetlands within the road allowance or significant wildlife species that will be impacted by construction of the road. The 26/27 SR reconstruction plan is a flawed submission by Clearview that would cost area taxpayers millions of dollars. It is not a comparable and safe replacement for the closing of former County Road 91, an inter-county road that has served the area for more than a hundred years.

What’s next?
There will be an additional pre-hearing conference on 28 April 2021. The appeal hearing itself will take place from November 8 to December 17 2021. After the appeal hearing, the recommendation from the hearing board goes back to the Board of the NEC, who will then submit a recommendation to the Minister of the Environment, hopefully to recommend not amending the Niagara Escarpment Plan to allow reconstruction of 26/27 SR. Clearview and allies can then appeal to the Supreme Court of Ontario if they so desire.

We will keep you up to date on developments as they occur. Read more about the issue from the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office.

See for yourself
To get a real idea about what’s being proposed, take a drive. From Duntroon, head west (uphill) on former CR91. Near the top you will see Walker’s quarries on both sides. They are impressive. Turn right at the top and stop at 26/27 SR. Park and walk down to CR 10. It’s a very rough road, so bring your hiking shoes.