Writer questions Central Manitoulin’s planning decision

To the Expositor:

Driving by the construction site on Hwy. 542 on the East side of Mindemoya, I see the structural steel framework already in place, as evidence of significant progress. Is this project as good as it looks from the highway, with a quick glance as we drive by? Perhaps, like an iceberg, 9/10th is hidden from view.

More than a decade ago, the Manitoulin newspapers carried the photo of a spring flood, where this same area was almost totally flooded, under the caption, “On Golden Pond”, referencing Mr. and Mrs. Golden as the then-owners of this farm land at that time, and the famous movie by the same name.

A local developer recently bought Golden’s farm, severed off a 1.4 hectare lot, and got Central Manitoulin council to approve the re-zoning to commercial. Underneath that building and the surrounding area are many truckloads of landfill. Much of that landfill was the blasted rock and other debris from the Mindemoya water and sewer construction project some 14 years ago. Even more additional landfill was recently brought in by the developer. The grade elevation on this land has risen substantially in recent history. With the land filling, this low cost land in the floodplain has been transformed into prime commercial real estate.

However, when the next wet spring occurs, the melt waters will likely come again, just like before.

The developer has proposed to divert much of these flood waters across the land of others towards Mud Lake, located South of Mindemoya. The balance will flow into a large storm water management pond (“catch basin”) that the developer proposes to build. I note that the developer assumes that this catch basin will have a permeability of 60 percent, meaning that 60 percent of the waters that enter this catch basin are assumed to seep out of the basin, entering into the surrounding soils, and 40 percent will be taken away by an overflow pipe to the ditches and creek that runs through downtown Mindemoya.

If the catch basin has 60 percent permeability, will not water flow both in and out between the catch basin and the surrounding soils? In my experience, the ground tends to be very soggy, if not saturated, in the spring. The proposed catch basin must be at the lowest point on the surrounding lands so that the water will drain there naturally. Can we not expect that this catch basin is already full, or in the process of filling, from ground seepage into that catch basin when the spring melt arrives? If the soil is already saturated, it may be a challenge to get the 60 percent permeability assumed by the developer’s plans. Does that mean more water than planned must exit the catch basin by the ditches and streams through downtown Mindemoya?

Floodplains naturally store water, thereby preventing the flooding of surrounding lands. If this former floodplain has been successfully transformed into a high and dry location, the displaced melt water will have to go to somebody else’s land, rather than being stored “On Golden Pond”. What are the consequences of these changes in drainage plans for a downtown Mindemoya that has frequently been ravaged by spring floods?

When you build in a flood plain, and do landfill in a floodplain, you make the flood plain bigger. That’s why Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement and Manitoulin’s Official Plan prohibits both land filling and building on lands that are susceptible to flooding. When these rules are not heeded, the number and severity of flooding, and the resulting property damage tends to get worse. If that risk comes true in this case, who will be responsible and pay for the flood damage? The developer, the municipality that supported and enabled the developer’s plans or the innocent neighbours of this commercial development?

Has short-sighted planning by Central Manitoulin been disguised as prosperity?

Glenn Black
Providence Bay