Frequently Asked QuestionsFAQs

This FAQs section is intended to help answer questions you may have about some of the terminology used on this website or general issues surrounding the project.

Click on the questions to get the answers.

What is an Individual Environmental Assessment and what are the stages of the process?

An Individual Environmental Assessment (IEA) is a study that assesses the potential environmental effects (positive or negative) of a proposed undertaking or project.  Key components of an IEA include consultation with the public, stakeholders, and government agencies; consideration and evaluation of alternatives; and the identification and management of potential environmental impacts/effects.  Conducting an IEA promotes good environmental planning before decisions are made about proceeding with an undertaking.  In Ontario, the IEA process is defined and finds its authority in the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.

An IEA involves a two-step approval process for proposed undertakings in the Province of Ontario:

Step One: Terms of Reference - The first step in the application for approval to proceed with an undertaking under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act is the preparation and submission of a Terms of Reference to the Minister of the Environment (Minister). The Terms of Reference sets out the proposed framework for the planning, environmental assessment, and decision-making process to be followed and it represents an agreement between the proponent(s) and the Minister about what is required in the IEA to address the legislated requirements of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.  It outlines what work and studies will be done during the environmental assessment stage.

Step Two: Individual Environmental Assessment - The second step is to undertake the IEA in accordance with the approved Terms of Reference. The key tasks of successful IEA planning under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act include:

  • Consultation with affected parties early in and throughout the process, such that the planning process is a cooperative venture. This includes seeking the involvement of potentially affected parties so that their concerns can be identified early and incorporated into the decision-making process.
  • Consideration of a reasonable range of alternatives, both the functionally different "alternatives to" and the "alternative methods" of implementing the solution.
  • Identification and consideration of the effects of each alternative on all aspects of the environment.
  • Systematic evaluation of alternatives in terms of their advantages and disadvantages, to determine their net environmental effects.

Provision of clear and complete documentation (Environmental Assessment Report) of the planning process followed to allow traceability of the decision-making undertaken. The proponent must give public notice of the submission of the Environmental Assessment Report. The notice indicates when and where members of the public may inspect the Report. Any person may comment in writing on the Report and submit the comments to the Ministry. If the comments are submitted by the required deadline, they will be considered by the Ministry's Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch in the preparation of the Ministry Review of the Environmental Assessment Report. Interested persons may also make submissions to other review agencies that will be making submissions to the Ministry Review related to their areas of interest. 

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What is a Moraine? Why is the Oak Ridges Moraine an important consideration in this project?

A moraine is a land formation, such as a mound or ridge, created by the movement of a glacier. Moraines are made of accumulated material that was deposited by a glacier, such as gravel, clay, or sand. 

The Oak Ridges Moraine, one of Ontario's most significant landforms, is a prominent and important geologic and hydrogeologic feature in the study area.  This irregular east-west ridge stretches for 160 kilometres (km) and is bounded by the Trent River to the east and by the Niagara Escarpment to the west.  The escarpment and the Moraine form the foundation for south central Ontario's natural heritage and green space systems.  The Moraine divides the watersheds draining south into western Lake Ontario from those draining north to Georgian Bay and the Trent River system, which form part of the Lake Huron watershed.  The ecological functions of the Moraine are critical to the Region's continuing health.

The Moraine has a unique concentration of environmental, geological, and hydrogeological features that make it vital to south central Ontario.  Key ecosystems within the Moraine include:

  • Clean and abundant water resources
  • Healthy and diverse plant and animal habitat
  • Attractive and distinctive landscapes
  • Prime agricultural areas
  • Sand and gravel resources

The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan was established by the Ontario government to provide a clear policy framework for protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine.  It provides land use and resource management direction on development applications that have the potential to impact the land and water within the Moraine.  The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan incorporates new strategies to preserve water resources in the various watersheds such as the prohibition of extending or expanding partial services.  It does not prohibit the extension of the Great Lakes based water and sewer systems to the Region's communities.  Under Section 41 of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, only necessary transportation and utilities may be permitted within the natural core area and natural linkage areas, provided the proponent demonstrates that all efforts to minimize the impacts to the natural environment have been made. 

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What does "Intra-Basin Transfer" mean and how is it relevant to this project?

 The Oak Ridges Moraine forms the surface water divide between the Lake Ontario and Lake Huron watersheds.  Both Lake Ontario and Lake Huron form part of the Great Lakes Watershed.  The transfer of waters from the Lake Ontario watershed to the Lake Simcoe watershed, which is part of the Lake Huron watershed, is considered an intra basin transfer unless the transfer methods comply with the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement.

In simple terms, moving water across a watershed divide needs to be managed carefully to protect the environment.  Water taken from a watershed to serve as municipal potable water should be ideally returned to that watershed via a sewage collection and treatment system to ensure protection of the source water and to maintain an ecosystem balance.   For example, if water is taken from Lake Ontario to supply upper York's potable water needs, it should be returned to Lake Ontario. Likewise, water taken from the Lake Simcoe watershed should be returned to the Lake Simcoe watershed. 

The sewage servicing solution for upper York must therefore have a compatible water supply to ensure that our natural environment remains protected.

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What will be done to ensure the waters of Lake Simcoe are protected?

The upper portion of York Region, within the Lake Huron Basin, drains to Lake Simcoe and consists of the East Holland, Maskinonge, and Black River watersheds.  Many of the rivers and streams in this area are Policy 2 streams.  A Policy 2 stream has little or no capacity to assimilate treated sewage effluent/discharge and is protected by stringent effluent limits for any wastewater proposed to be discharged to these waters.  The Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (June 2009), and the Lake Simcoe Phosphorus Reduction Strategy (June 2010) have been established to protect and manage the very sensitive Lake Simcoe watershed and associated inland watercourses.  The strategy in these documents will require discharge to the Lake Simcoe watershed to meet stringent treated sewage effluent objectives which will help restore the Lake Simcoe watershed.  (Updated May 6, 2011)

Key Facts

  • Protected by the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008
  • Ecologically sensitive system with limited assimilative capacity
  • Competing nutrient loadings from surrounding land uses
  • Extensively-fished lake and part of the Trent-Severn Waterway
  • Impacted by extensive agricultural area including Holland Marsh


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What planning has been done to determine the future growth in the service area, where it will go, and how 'sprawl' will be avoided?

 The Provincial Places to Grow Act, 2005 and the Region's Official Plan have dictated the growth forecasts and locations of growth within York Region.

Despite its many assets, Ontario faces a number of challenges in sustaining and growing its economic base and residential populations, including all aspects associated with rapid growth:  increased traffic congestion, deteriorating air quality and water resources, the disappearance of agricultural lands and natural resources, and infrastructure that does not meet the demands of growth.  All levels of government are under intense pressure to meet public infrastructure needs.

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe has been established under the Places to Grow Act, 2005.  The Plan addresses the challenges of growth through policy directions that intensify urban growth and ensure that sustainable water and wastewater services are available to support future growth.  It serves as the framework for implementing the Government of Ontario's vision for building stronger, prosperous communities by better managing growth in the Region to 2031. 

This Plan builds on other key Provincial government initiatives including:  the Greenbelt Plan, and the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 (PPS, 2005).  It does not replace municipal official plans, but works within the existing planning framework to provide growth management policy direction for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The guiding principles of the Growth Plan include optimizing the use of existing and new infrastructure to support growth in a compact, efficient form; and promoting collaboration among all sectors - government, private, and non-profit - and residents to achieve the vision.

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How does the project team propose to protect greenbelt areas?

The Greenbelt Act, 2005 enabled the creation of a Greenbelt Plan to protect environmentally sensitive and agricultural land in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from urban development and sprawl.

The designated Greenbelt area is 1.8 million acres of land stretching from the Niagara Peninsula in the southwest to Rice Lake in the east, including a considerable portion of York Region and includes some of the most environmentally sensitive areas as well as agricultural lands.  The Act protects the greenbelt area from major urban development, while addressing the needs of growing communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  The Greenbelt includes the 800,000 acres of land protected by the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.  It also includes 1 million newly protected acres known as the "protected countryside."

The Greenbelt Plan protects the headwaters of all major watersheds in the western Greater Toronto Area that were not protected by the Niagara Escarpment or Oak Ridges Moraine plans.

Unlike the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, the Greenbelt Plan prohibits the extension or expansion of Great Lakes based water and sewer systems to communities within the Greenbelt. 

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