Troubling findings in recently released environmental assessment

Citizens force city to release report
After months of delays, the city of Ottawa has finally released the findings of a report into Phase 1 Existing Conditions for Shirley’s Brook & Watts Creek Water Diversion Environmental Assessment (EA) in Kanata. The assessment pertains to Urbandale and Richcraft’s controversial “KNL”  housing development in Kanata.The City of Ottawa was forced to release this information after an Access to Information request was filed by a member of the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc (SMH-CRC). This despite the fact the city of Ottawa is obligated under the EA Act and regulations to ensure public participation. The Ontario Ministry of Environment’s website states that related to the EA process… “The EA program ensures that public concerns are heard. …. Public consultation is mandatory and the public is encouraged to get involved in an EA process.”
Flood risk: Nowhere to put all the storm water and runoff
The report, prepared by the firm AECOM (a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and government) clearly shows why the city’s has maintained a less than transparent approach on this file. The report’s key findings indicate that there is considerably less storage capacity in both Kizell wetland (100,000 cubic metres less) and Beaver Pond (48,000 cubic metres less) than what was used to approve KNL’s original Phases 1-6 housing development in 2007.  The report by AECOM shows that water will actually flow over Goulbourn Forced Road (GFR) and Beaver Pond Dam during a 100-yr storm event. These figures imply that the Minister of Environment (MoE) authorized Certificate of Approval (CofA) issued in 2007 for KNL housing development Phases 1 – 6 was based on inaccurate data. The inaccuracy of the CoA would have been caught had the City performed an EA as required at the time. However, the City’s engineering department applied for the CofA without confirming the storage capacity  numbers. When later challenged about the lack of an EA, the city engineering official assigned to this file subsequently claimed without substantiation that one had been done previously. Yet there is no record of such an EA, nor is there any reference to it in any engineering study done in the South March Highlands (SMH). The report by AECOM shows that the EXISTING conditions result in an outflow from Kizell of 4.48 cubic metres /sec – a number that is 4 times faster than the 1.16 cubic metres/sec allowed in the CofA.  According to the report, the source of the discrepancy seems to be due to the absence of on-site detention of storm water within 50 ha of Phases 1-6 and by the significant lack of available storage in Kizell wetland.   All subdivisions are supposed to have on-site water detention and KNL’s Phases 1 – 6 come up short. These conditions violate the CofA by a factor of 4.7 times and are incompatible with the safe maximum allowed flow in Kizell Pond established by the 1999 Subwatershed Study.  Flow rates higher than the maximum allowed will cause significant erosion (which in turn causes many other problems) as well as aggravating flood hazards downstream. Why did the city’s director of planning (John Moser) feel it unnecessary to inform local residents that the report indicates there is currently 48,000 m3 LESS storm water storage in Beaver Pond and that the peak flows and volumes are 25-30% higher than previously calculated by the developer (KNL) in 2007 (when the city of Ottawa obtained the original Certificate of Authorization from the Ontario of Environment for the Phases 1-6 of the KNL development)?
Poor communication and secret meetings at city hall
Much of the frustration generated by the release of this AECOM report is due to the fact that, contrary to the conditions of subdivision approval,  KNL (Urbandale and Richcraft) has never published a community community communications plan (despite being a condition of subdivision approval). Nor has the city of Ottawa required that KNL put such a communications plan in place. The city has known about these potential flooding hazards and yet has done nothing to advise residents adjacent to the Beaver Pond whose homes may be in jeopardy. To the contrary -  City planning staff has worked to keep these facts from the public, choosing instead to meet only with KNL’s agents in what appears to be an attempt to modify the findings of the draft report or to drop the EA investigation in favour of relying on the completely opaque subdivision approval process (as evidenced by the minutes of a meeting convened by John Moser held in August 2011 that excluded the participation of the City engineer responsible for the EA and simultaneously ignored public requests for information disclosure). Chapter 7 paragraph 7 of the AECOM report states that the future phase 9 development by KNL exceeds the required capacity in Beaver Pond by 22%. One is left to wonder “Why city planners allowed the Beaver Pond forest to be clear cut in February 2011 prior to KNL having a feasible storm water management plan in place? The absence of tree cover in the area will only lead to increased risks of flooding during heavy rain fall events.

What’s next?

Based on all of the new information now being made public about urban planning in the Kanata and due to the interactions between the Kizell and Carp water systems, the KNL Phases 1-9, Broughton Ridge, and Richardson Ridge developments and in the interest of public safety a stronger and stronger and stronger case is being made to support an immediate moratorium on all development in Kanata West, Glen Cairn, and the South March Highlands until the big watershed management picture is better understood.

To read the full report please visit the links below:




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