Letter to the editor 3, April 15, 2021
Destroying the environment to generate profit
On the morning of April 11, we and our neighbours participated in an event organized by the Sandy Beach Wetland Protection Group. We are all disappointed in the failure of Hudson council to save the Sandy Beach area from private development.
As you know, Sandy Beach is a valuable ecological zone, almost the only bit of public shoreline left in Hudson. It is also a much-valued recreational area, visited daily by many people seeking to renew their contact with nature. Yet the council has been unwilling to become proactive on our behalf.
Every bit of forest removed near the marshy estuary of Viviry Creek will damage that wetland and other properties in the Ottawa River Watershed. Soil protected by trees is protected against heavy rains and floods. Soil that is unprotected by trees allows much more runoff from rainstorms; this will cause heavier flooding in the estuary and in the lower Ottawa River watershed. Tree removal followed by construction near the estuary will multiply these problems; rainfall cannot be absorbed in soils that are covered by houses, roads, and other structures. A great amount of new runoff will enter both the estuary and the lake, endangering not only the marsh ecosystem and its inhabitants but also homes already built along the shoreline.
Jack Layton Park, adjoining Sandy Beach, is town property. Much of this park is marsh and, during the spring flood of 2019, the bridge across the creek was badly damaged. Climate change will lead to increased seasonal flooding, and the addition of more than 200 housing units in the Sandy Beach area will multiply flooding in the park to a catastrophic degree. Yet the council seems to be making no effort to protect this fine park.
Much has been learned about our watershed, and about climate change, since the town first began negotiations with the developer. Concerning the environmental impacts of the Sandy Beach housing project, whatever permits were granted, whether by the town or by the province, were granted in error. The council should be striving to rescind all such permits.
Parenthetically, we have seen this sort of problem first-hand along our street, where many new houses have recently been built on plots that should have been left as untouched wetlands. Every new house increases seasonal flooding on nearby properties. One would hope that dramatically increased seasonal floods in the Ottawa Valley would lead to a rethink on land-use policies affecting wetlands.The point that must be understood is that, in watershed planning, impacts are not confined to the area of new construction.
The Sandy Beach Wetland Protection Group is proposing that the town council look for partners, such as Nature Conservancy Canada and/or the Ministry of Environment, to buy this land from the developer and protect it from future encroachment. It's time for the council to make a serious effort on behalf of its citizens and for the sake of future generations.
The world is facing a monumental crisis in terms of environmental conservation. Woodlands and wetlands are vital resources absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus mitigating, to an important extent, the impact of burning fossil fuels. Every government on the planet is now aware of the need for environmental conservation, yet ironically, the council has just announced that it can lay hands on an extravagant sum (one million dollars!) of our money for a totally pointless project of landscape decoration known as ‘Pine Lake.’ The council wants to use this money to drown a perfectly good wetland along the Viviry Creek just west of Cameron Road, expecting us to believe that the culvert under Cameron is otherwise in danger from seasonal floods. If the latter were true, we should fix the culvert, not dam the creek. A few households overlooking the proposed ‘lake’ might gain enhanced property values, but will that enhance the functionality of the environment? Not at all.
The guiding values of the town council seem to be fixed on the notion that destroying the environment is an easy way to generate profit. That is an old and deep bias of our civilization, one that needs to be rethought quickly. If we value private monetary gain above all else, then we shall soon lose whatever else we claim to value.