Shaun McLaughlin

by Shaun McLaughlin

On December 9, Councillors Edwards, Abbott and I, plus Diane Smithson, visited the Natural Resources minister’s (David Orazetti) office yesterday in Toronto. We went to discuss the issue of the dying wetland upstream from Almonte. The minister was not present—his flight was late coming from N. Ontario. We did get a chance to talk by speaker phone as he drove in from Pearson. With us in the room were Michael Simpson, his chief of staff, and two policy advisors.

 It was clear from the discussion that the minister and staff were familiar with the recent MOE decision on the Enerdu EA but knew little about the wetland issue. Edwards, Abbott and I took turns speaking to specific aspects of the issue. I started by explaining what Reach 18 was (the river between Almonte and Appleton) and outlined the general problem. Edwards explained several aerial photographs we brought and the analysis one takes from them (the problem is not caused by insects, disease or recent river conditions). Abbott talked about the issue from the conservation authority’s position (he is on the board), and I explained scientific data provided by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. I also talked about the history of the flashboards, with references to comments from Brian Gallagher and Harry Barr in the Opposite Banks documentary about the historical height of the flashboards (and thus the water level). I stated that the red maples need a dry root period in the summer. Water levels at other times of the year are not an issue. I spoke about the efforts of our citizen scientists so far and their willingness to help the ministry. Edwards stressed that our issue was not anti-Enerdu but all about the environment. Abbott explained how the current water level was set—a best guess based on no historical data—and how that needs to be revisited.

We specifically asked the Minister to reassess the operating water level in Reach 18. It was clear to me that we had presented something to think about, something he and his immediate staff knew nothing about. Simpson promised to get back to us soon in response to our delegation.

P.S. Just in case anyone complains: we travelled by train in economy class using tickets bought during a seat sale. The Town paid for the tickets and we paid for our own meals.