River Rant

There’s been quite a flash flood of emails over the last few days about Official Plan Amendment 48 (OPA 48) and a claim that the document ignores how much we value our river systems.

Nothing could be further from the truth! From my perch, there is no Council in recent history that values the rivers as much as the current one!

Let’s have a look at the facts:

An Official Plan is comprised of many parts, all working together to  form one integrated plan.

Everytime something changes in an official plan, it is called an Offical Plan Amendment (OPA).

OPA 48 is just one of a series of amendments made in the past few years. Yes, it is true that OPA 48 removes many previous references to our river systems. But that’s because an earlier amendment (OPA 42, passed by Council in July 2010) is a far stronger and more comprehensive document — called the Natural Heritag Strategy — and it’s ALL in there and more.

OPA 42 not only contains significant protection for river systems, but it also treats whole environmental systems in context — ie. valley lands, grades, moraines, vegetation — which is a much more progressive approach to environmental protection, including rivers.

I’ll be honest, I am not sure where the campaign to reinstate the Rivers System language back into OPA 48 is coming from, but to do so would be redundant. If it is deeply embedded and enhanced in OPA 42, why repeat the same material in OPA 48? Yes, OPA 42 is under appeal to the OMB right now, but it seems to me that the if we include the same language in OPA 48, we run the risk of having OPA 48 being appealed to the OMB as well. This would stagnate the whole Official Plan and we need to move forward. The major points of contention at the OMB are not related to the river systems language, and all protections in the current OP remain in force until OPA 42 is settled.

For more info on what is included in both OPA 42 and OPA 48, here is the link:

Consultation on OPA 42 and OPA 48 was extensive, including the involvement of the Rivers Systems Advisory Committee.

So where do I stand on the primacy of our rivers? Let me tell you a bit about my relationship with the Speed and Eramosa. Most of my formative years were spent on the banks of the Eramosa River in Puslinch Township. We swam, fished and ice-skated (yes, on the Arkell Woolen Mill pond) in the river. I now live one block from the banks of the Speed and walk its bank several times a week. No one values our two rivers more than I…I was recently asked (and accepted) an invitation to speak about the heritage of our rivers at the Two Rivers Festival.

I believe our rivers — and their connected systems — are well proteced in OPA 42.


7 thoughts on “River Rant

  1. Hi Leanne,

    I don’t think anyone is questioning your commitment to our rivers. But what happens if OPA 42 is shot down at the OMB, and we are left with just OPA 39 and 48? What would the process be to get those NHS protections back into our Official Plan? It seems as though all our environmental eggs are in one basket here, and the basket may be overturned at the OMB.

  2. Thanks for the questions Dave. Anticipating hypotheticals is never easy either way. Official Plans are living documents, updated regularly. As you know, OPA 42 is a very detailed and comprehenisve Natural Heritage Strategy that encompasses everything from moraines, slopes, rivers, wetland, forests, meadows, ecological linkages, etc. The whole of OPA 42 is not being challenged – the OMB can only review and rule on planning issues that were raised during the public consultation process, and I do not recall that river systems were part of any submission by the appellants. If we add the language of OPA 42 back into OPA 48, we risk both ending up at the OMB. I see putting the natural heritage clauses, including rivers, back into OPA 48 as putting all our eggs in one basket. If OPA 42 fails, then there’s always OPA 49….

  3. Hi Leanne,

    Re what parts of OPA 42 are being challenged, the OMB web site says:

    “Thirteen appeals have been filed pursuant to subsection 17(36) of the Planning Act. Several appeals are global in nature, placing the whole of OPA under appeal; the balance are site-specific in nature.”

    There are apparently a couple of appeals that have already been settled or dropped, but it does appear that the whole of OPA 42 remains under appeal in several cases.

  4. Hi Dave — the OMB, during its deliberations on this appeal, can only consider arguments that were raised during the public consultation on the OPA. I will be checking the minutes and correspondence, but to my recollection, none of the appellants raised issues related to river systems.

  5. This is related to the Speed river. Leanne would you know if the Niska Road Bailey bridge is a heritage structure? I am aware it replaced a bridge that was damaged in 1974. Thank you.

    • Hi Sandy, as it turns out I just passed on some old photos of the pre-1974 bridge to Stephen Robinson, Heritage Planner with the City of Guelph. The bridge collapsed in 1974 and was completely replaced with the current structure. Heritage Guelph is reviewing the bridge history as part of the EA process. Stephen Robinson can be contacted at stephen.robinson@guelph.ca for further information. Hope this helps … LP

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