Grindstone creek - it plays a vital role - hampered by Bill 23

By Staff

January 10th, 2023


Note from a reader:  Just saw your piece on the importance of Ontario wetlands, and wanted to share a report that really demonstrates the value of Grindstone Creek watershed (and watersheds in general). Our organization, the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, partnered with the Cities of Hamilton, Burlington, Conservation Halton, the Greenbelt Foundation and Royal Botanical Gardens on this project.

We’ve gotten some pick up of the report as a story in Water Canada and TVO, but local news and interest is always the most powerful, especially now that this report and recommendations are with Councils.

At a time when Ontario’s Greenbelt is eyed for development, a new report demonstrates that natural assets in Grindstone Creek are extremely valuable in addressing local flood risk, but these costs will be thrust onto communities if protection of the watershed does not become a priority.

The Grindstone Creek watershed and its sub-watersheds are located partially within the Cities of Burlington and Hamilton and the Regional Municipality of Halton. 91 km2, the watershed is also a part of Ontario’s Greenbelt, and contains the greatest diversity of wildlife of any Canadian Forest Zone, including species found nowhere else in the country.

The Grindstone Creek Watershed Natural Asset Project is the first of its kind in Ontario, bringing partners from across jurisdictions to address their shared watershed. The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI), with support from the Greenbelt Foundation, partnered with the Cities of Hamilton, Burlington, Conservation Halton and Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) to explore the value and condition of natural assets in Grindstone Creek and to incorporate them in local financial planning and asset management.

The report finds that the estimated value of stormwater management services alone is equivalent to over $2 billion in engineered infrastructure replacements, not including operational costs. The watershed also provides an annual service value of approximately $34 million in co-benefits, including recreation, erosion control, habitat biodiversity, atmospheric regulation, and climate mitigation.

“This project makes clear the vital importance of the infrastructure and non-infrastructure services provided by natural assets in the Grindstone Creek watershed — and a path to protect them as core assets for the long-term,” says Roy Brooke, Executive Director of the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. “Although we can’t reduce nature to a simple dollar figure, this shows the enormous financial value of services communities are getting from nature. Protecting these assets avoids taxpayers getting stuck with a far higher bill to replace services that nature gives us already,” he added.

Flooding is Ontario’s most costly natural hazard, and with strains from ageing infrastructure and tight municipal budgets, the value of pre-existing, climate-resilient infrastructure will only increase.

“The Greenbelt Foundation is proud to support the Grindstone Creek Watershed project, which shows the tremendous potential of a community effort to deliver cost-effective municipal services that enhance our towns’ and cities’ ability to mitigate growing risks like flooding,” says Greenbelt Foundation CEO Ed McDonnell. “The report by MNAI affirms the substantial economic value of critical natural assets, the importance of integrating this knowledge into municipal planning, and it is further proof that the Ontario Greenbelt is one of our greatest resources to address urbanization and climate change.”

In the report, MNAI identified two immediate actions needed in the Grindstone Creek watershed: restore high-risk priority areas to avoid loss of natural assets; and commit to improving governance and collaborative strategies long-term.

Hassaan Basit, President of Conservation Halton.

“If we’re going to effectively tackle resource issues, like flooding and erosion, we need to use science and data to better understand how our watershed functions and reacts to different stresses, like climate change,” says Hassaan Basit, President of Conservation Halton. “With this understanding, Conservation Halton, municipalities, and other partners can work together to find cost-effective ways to respond to today’s changing environment. By recognizing that what happens upstream affects what happens downstream, we can help to prepare and protect for the future.”

Results and recommendations from the project have gone to the respective Councils and Board Members of Hamilton, Burlington, Conservation Halton and RBG for their consideration, with further discussion to take place early in the new year.

Meanwhile the provincial government passes Bill 23 that that brings about changes in several pieces of legislation that impact what happens to the creeks.

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1 comment to Grindstone creek – it plays a vital role – hampered by Bill 23

  • Philip Waggett

    Looking at your headline, what SPECIFIC intrusions will Bill 23 allow into the Grindstone Creek watershed? This creek area is a wonderful natural resource; however, in researching the specific areas that are going to be allowed to be developed in the existing Greenbelt, I find no area that would significantly impact this watershed. Likewise, despite a couple of articles highly focused on wetlands, I can’t find any wetlands that are proposed for development. Perhaps I have missed these if anyone can direct me to the SPECIFIC areas tagged for development.