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Minister says work can restart at Hanlon Creek Business Park

Friday, August 28, 2009

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  • The Ministry of Natural Resources gave Guelph the go-ahead to restart construction of a culvert at the Hanlon Creek Business Par

    The Ministry of Natural Resources gave Guelph the go-ahead to restart construction of a culvert at the Hanlon Creek Business Par

Written by Greg Beneteau

(Story will be updated to include comment from opponents of the site as they become available).

Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield signalled her intentions not to issue a stop work order at the Hanlon Creek Business Park, ending a court-imposed injunction preventing work on the site.

Ivan Langrish, a senior communications adviser for the MNR, confirmed that Cansfield would allow the City of Guelph to build a culvert along a tributary of Hanlon Creek, provided that “appropriate mitigation measures” were taken to protect the Jefferson Salamander, considered a species at risk.

“The minister had to be satisfied that there was appropriate mitigation that we could do to ensure that there would be no potential destruction to habitat," Langrish explained. "We were satisfied that that was the case.”

The measures, sent to the city yesterday, included installing silt fencing around the entire construction area, as well as limiting work hours to daytime hours when salamanders are least active, according to a fact sheet provided by the MNR.

Langrish stressed the decision only applied to construction of the culvert. The ministry would also be testing whether Jefferson Salamanders were in the area next spring, he added.

“We will be doing further testing at that time, and if there are salamanders in that area then we will have to be working with the city and the developers and so forth, to see where we can move forward from there.”

The notice satisfied criteria imposed by Justice Douglas Gray that gave Minister Cansfield up to 30 days to decide if the project should be stopped to prevent possible harm to the Jefferson Salamander.

Minister Cansfield's decision left the city with a short window of opportunity to complete construction of the culvert, due to restrictions imposed by the Grand River Conservation Authority requiring work on the stream to be completed before September 15.

Mayor Karen Farbridge told thecannon the city was coordinating with the Grand River Conservation Authority, contractors from Drexler Construction and local MRN staff to see if it was feasible to continue construction into the fall.

"It will be a combination of looking at whether there's an opportunity to extend the timelines, as well as look at the construction schedule," Farbridge noted.

The city recognized that there remained much work to be done to ensure adequate environmental protections throughout the construction process, she added.

"In terms of moving forward, we remain commited to working with the MNR and the Grand River Conservation Authority to ensure that as we move forward with the various phases, we do it with extreme care."

A group of environmental activists that occupied the Hanlon Creek construction site had argued in court the Jefferson Salamander or its habitat could be threatened by the proposed construction.

A press release on the group's website condemned the MNR's stance, saying it failed to assess the risk to salamanders posed by vehicles travelling to and from the site. They also accused the Minister of failing to heed monitoring guidelines for determining salamander habitats."

“This decision ignores every good reason there is to abandon this project, and even fails to satisfy both the MNR and Jefferson Salamander experts in it’s ruling,” the posting read. “Minister Cansfeild has just given the go ahead for a project that never should have happened in the first place and has given the city permission to continue to pour money down the drain.”

A spokesperson for the group could not be reached for comment. An email circulated late last night indicated the group would be holding a press conference at Guelph City Hall the following morning; however thecannon did not receive the notice in time to attend.

The group had also planned at awareness day Goldie Mill Park on Saturday to discuss threats to envrionmentally sensitive lands southern Ontario.

Two phone numbers provided on the activists’ website had been disconnected, and the group did not respond to email requests for an interview.

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