Lake Simcoe Mega-Marina Closer to Reality



    Provincial approval of Big Bay Point in mere days dismays environmental
    groups

    TORONTO, June 18 /CNW/ - The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is
about to approve a proposal for a 1,000 slip marina for Lake Simcoe, a project
having signifcant environmental impact and about which environmental and
community organizations have been protesting for months. The Big Bay Point
development calls for 1,600 resort units (fractional ownership), 400 hotel
units, a 1,000 slip marina on a man-made bay, and an 18-hole golf course. The
marina would be one of the largest inland marinas in the country.
    "It is premature to approve anything of this mega-scale without a
thorough understanding of the Lake's carrying capacity," said Ladies of the
Lake Co-Founder Annabel Slaight. "No one even knows how to measure the impact
of that many people; although hopefully we are on the eve of future growth
management strategies. A declaration of provincial interest for a
precedent-setting project like this is essential."
    A review by the province of three critical environmental studies seems to
have occurred within days or even hours of the developer submitting the
reports. The reports flow from a controversial Memorandum of Settlement signed
between the province and the developer in April 2007. The environmental groups
opposing the project refused to sign the Settlement.
    Despite repeated requests to be included in the review, government
endorsement of the studies came without consulting environmental groups or
their experts.
    "If this project were proposed for the Greenbelted side of the Lake, the
project would be strictly prohibited," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive
Director, Environmental Defence. "Many feared that leaving the shoreline of
Simcoe County exposed when the Greenbelt was created was a big mistake. Unless
the province acts to stop this project, this case proves they were right."
    The groups have vowed to make a plea for reason at the Ontario Municipal
Board hearing on Wednesday, August 8, 2007. They are also renewing calls for
the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, John Gerretsen, to declare a
provincial interest in the proposed Big Bay Point Resort. Such a declaration
costs nothing, protects the public interest and ensures that the government,
and not the Ontario Municipal Board, has the final say on the protection of
the Lake.
    Concerned citizens disagree with the findings of the Ministry of
Municipal Affairs and Housing concerning the environmental impact of the
proposal, including:

    
    -   three critical environmental studies were reviewed and approved in a
        mere 21 days, implying that no new field work was undertaken in
        support of the so-called new reports; existing fish and terrestrial
        habitats will be lost or impaired, including possibly habitats of
        rare or threatened species;
    -   necessary water quality data should have taken up to 2 years to
        complete.
    

    "There is no existing policy framework at the provincial level or within
the Conservation Authority to evaluate proposals for man-made lakes," said
Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for Ontario Nature. "The
current planning regime allows different parts of the same watershed to be
subjected to different growth parameters and standards - this unfair system
favours some land owners over others."
    On March 1, 2006, the McGuinty government acted to protect Lake Simcoe by
declaring a provincial interest in the so-called "UCCI Development" in
Oro-Medonte. The UCCI development is far smaller than the Big Bay development.
    The groups are now putting their faith in the environmental credentials
of the Premier in the hopes of avoiding a protracted battle at the OMB.

    www.savelakesimcoe.com





For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647)
280-9521 (cell); Annabel Slaight, Co-Founder of the Ladies of the Lake, (905)
476-7575, aslaight@rogers.com; Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and
Science, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404, wendyf@ontarionature.org; Jon
Johnson, Board Member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, (416) 972-7444,
patjon@rogers.com

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RESCUE LAKE SIMCOE COALITION

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