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OMB UPDATE

Dear Friends,

While we are still in the OMB process, the hearing itself finished with closing arguments on Friday, October 7. Written submissions from the three lawyers – representing North Kawartha Township, Burleigh Bay Corporation, and FFW/Curve Lake First Nation – are due at the OMB on Friday, October 28. After that, the OMB Chair, David Lanthier, has warned that it will take some time to wade through all of the evidence and compose a decision. We expect it to be some months before we hear that decision.

In the meantime, we can update you on the final two weeks of the hearing which progressed in much the same way as the first two – extremely well! Time and again, FFW expert witnesses demonstrated a superior grasp on the Fraser property’s hydrogeological functions, its wetland ecology, its valuable habitat features and its identified species at risk. They were consistent in their ability to undermine the developer’s witness reports and to reveal the development plan to to be wholly unsuitable for the site and dangerous to the property’s sensitive ecology.

Our planning expert, Stephen Fahner, shone a bright light on a long list of planning issues, including a new, inadequate Environmental Impact Study produced just prior to the hearing, a deficient lake capacity study and the inappropriateness of a condominium corporation as an ownership model on a Provincially Significant Wetland Complex. Ontario’s former Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, testified that the property is a unique and important landscape “consisting of several hundred hectares of contiguous provincially significant wetlands.” Its location adjacent to two different eco-regions, in the “land between,” where granite meets limestone, makes it an area of particularly rich biodiversity upon which a large variety of species depend.

During the final, precedent-setting week, the hearing shifted to the community centre at Curve Lake First Nation and to issues of the Fraser Property’s cultural significance. It was the first time that an OMB hearing took place on a reserve and that Traditional Knowledge Holders were qualified to speak as experts.

At the end of the hearing, David Donnelly’s closing argument was inspiring and compelling, deftly weaving together FFW’s ecological issues and Curve Lake’s cultural interests – and all the more impressive for the fact that David had “popped” down to Toronto the night before for his about-to-be married daughter’s rehearsal dinner. Well done, David!

And now we wait.

Thank you to everyone who’s contributed to this extraordinary effort, including our lawyers, David and Anne, who capped their fees and provided countless hours of work pro bono; our expert witnesses who similarly agreed to limit their bills; the Friends who volunteered to billet our lawyers and witnesses; and those who provided daytime and evening meals to the team during the hearing.

No hearing summary would be complete without a special note about our Participants – the individuals and lake groups who spent countless hours composing their convincing statements and attended the hearing to present their arguments against the proposed development – and to defend them under cross-examination by the developer’s lawyer. This was an impressively effective group who raised a variety of credible issues. Their testimony added immeasurably to our case. We’re grateful for their support and their dedication.

PARTICIPANTS
John Huycke on behalf of the Association of Stoney Lake Cottagers (ALSC)
Jeffrey Chalmers on behalf of the Birchcliff Property Owners Association (BPOA) in Douro-Dummer Township
Ed Wood representing Woods Island, Burleigh Channel
Rachel Corbett
Lois Wallace on behalf of the Environment Council for Clear, Ston(e)y and White Lakes
Reid Brownscombe and Pat Bourne representing the Common Participant Statement, signed by 25 individuals and groups
Holly Blefgen
Cath Kirk and Scott Wootton, whose property borders the Fraser Property
Andrea Kale Marcus

Finally, we take very seriously our responsibility as financial stewards. We weigh carefully each and every financial decision we make and are confident that we are planning and managing your donated funds in the most effective way possible.

Four weeks ago we made an urgent financial appeal. In order to pay our higher than expected hearing expenses, we needed to raise more money. The response was wonderful, and as a result, we’re almost there!

If you haven’t already, please join us in this extraordinary effort to conserve the Fraser Property – an incredible natural and cultural landscape.

The FFW legal team from Donnelly Law at the end of the hearing: from left, Kristina Matveev, student-at-law, lawyers Anne Sabourin and David Donnelly, Rachel McPherson-Duncan, Victor Intern in Environmental Law.

The Fraser Wetlands: A Natural Investment
Conserving the wetlands has benefits beyond the obvious environmental ones. It is a significant investment in the local economy which relies heavily on recreational, tourist and seasonal support — which, in turn, is dependent upon a healthy environment.

We can’t do this alone! Help save this unique natural resource – essential contributor to lake water quality and immensely diverse habitat for a wide range of species, including the at-risk Blanding’s turtle.

Ways to Donate
FFW accepts cheques mailed to the address below and e-transfers to ffwetland@gmail.com.

BECOME A DONOR!

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The circle, above, shows the location of one of the proposed development’s common areas: a marina with 72 boat slips, car parking lot, boat trailer storage and beach directly across from a marina at Burleigh Falls and just down from the locks.

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