Side Road 26/27 Update

By George Powell, member of Watershed Action Group (WAG)

As we have reported in previous newsletters, Clearview Township proposes to upgrade Side Road 26/27. The Road traverses Escarpment Natural and Escarpment Protection, which comprise the most sensitive land designations in the Niagara Escarpment Plan. Clearview’s appeal is opposed by the Niagara Escarpment Commission, Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation and local residents.

The reason to reconstruct Side Road 26/27 arises out of the Road Agreement between the Township of Clearview, Simcoe County and Walker Aggregates Ltd., and as part of the Duntroon Quarry Walker Hearing carried out in 2010 and 2011.

In the Road Agreement the Township agreed to close the portion of County Road No. 91 that runs between the existing and new Walker Industries quarries just west of Duntroon and transfer land ownership to Walker Aggregates Inc. (see aerial photograph, opposite. Clearview Side Road 26/27 is shown in red, quarry sites are outlined in yellow and the Niagara Escarpment brow is the blue line).

A requirement of the Consolidated Joint Board was upgrading Side Road 26/27 from a seasonal road to an all-weather road when County Road 91 was closed. A condition placed by the Consolidated Hearing Board on the issuance of the quarry license was the requirement that the improvements to former County Road 91 from Hwy 124 to Concession 10 and Side Road 26/27 be in place prior to the commencement of shipping of quarry product from the proposed quarry. Not mentioned in the decision is a tunnel under County Road 91 connecting the two quarries. The tunnel is now in place, allowing aggregate from the new quarry to be processed at the adjacent existing Walker Quarry and allowing it to be trucked off site. This is contrary to the Walker Quarry Hearing Board’s decision that required Side Road 26/27 to be constructed first.

As background, considerable fill and cut sections will be required to upgrade Side Road 26/27 to

acceptable municipal rural standards. There are few, if any, all-season roads in this section of the Niagara Escarpment that have steep grades similar to that of Side Road 26/27. Where they do exist, they do not go straight up the escarpment, but rather adopt the switchback approach where curves are utilized to mitigate the effects of steep grades. Since there are several alternative routes that allow access to County Road 31, this request for “upgrading” Side

Road 26/27 is not necessary. Funds would be better spent on improvements to other Township roads that provide a safer, less steep road up and over the Escarpment.

It is the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation’s opinion that Side Road 26/27 should

remain as a seasonal roadway closed during winter and early spring and that improvements be made to erosion and sediment control along the road allowance to protect the Pretty River watershed’s natural features and its significant fishery resource.

More detailed environmental surveys recently carried out by Clearview in the design process of the road upgrades have discovered additional wetlands not previously identified. This discovery requires Clearview, under the Niagara Escarpment Protection and Planning Act, to apply for an amendment of the Niagara Escarpment Plan. Their appeal decision to the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Board has been postponed and a telephone conference to reschedule the hearing is now scheduled for October 2 of this year.

Further, we believe that as a result of Clearview finding additional wetlands, there is substantial

proof to require Clearview Township to do a higher level of Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) than the Class A+ originally carried out. We have therefore requested, through a Part II order under The Environmental Bill of Rights, that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change require, as a minimum, a Schedule C, MCEA.

This requirement, if agreed upon, should be carried out before the amendment or appeal of the

proposed Side Road 26/27 upgrade is considered. It would allow a much higher level of scrutiny by governmental agencies and most importantly, public input. Short-cutting the environmental review process shows a lack of understanding by Clearview Township of MCEA process.

We appeal to our members and the public to support our efforts and to help fund them. A donation to the Watershed Trust specific to this project is needed to keep up our opposition.