Sometimes you’ve got to make a lot of noise to be heard. Especially when it appears people aren’t listening. This is often with some government agencies.
A case in point is the issue of the floodplain of the Central Welland River. If you don’t live in the floodplain you may not know much about this. But if you do, you know a lot – and you won’t be happy. And if the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, or “NPCA” has its way, you’ll be joined by a lot more area residents.
As a home owner myself whose property was affected by the proposed expanded floodplain, let me share with you what this is all about: A floodplain is flat land beside a river, which can experience flooding during heavy rains, for example. In 2009, the NPCA contracted a company to re-map the floodplain around the Central Welland River. The result was a plan to expand its size significantly, meaning more area residents would be subject to the restrictions forced on people when they live inside a floodplain. For starters, you would need a permit from the NPCA – in addition to a municipal building permit – to construct a new building or change or replace an existing one. Or install a swimming poor, or a dock, or even a retaining wall or pond. There would be new rules for placing, removing or grading fill of any kind, from any source, including the disposal of unwanted material. Being an environmental organization, the NPCA could demand anything from soil testing to hydrology graphs, and so on, before granting that permit.
I’ve received many emails, phone calls and other correspondence objecting to this stripping away of property rights with no notice.
Many of my constituents rightly feel that the NPCA “blindsided”them with the initial decision on this matter, and are angry that there was no consultation and that the NPCA failed to look at other alternatives. There is also concern that the NPCA has not properly demonstrated the need for the revised floodplain maps.
So recently, I met with Gery Prentice, the Chair of the Welland River Floodplain Association, a non-profit organization formed to raise awareness about the potential changes to floodplain maps along the Welland River. I congratulated Gerry and his team for their hard work. I then wrote directly to the Chair of the NPCA. A member of my constituency office staff was also dispatched to a community meeting in Wellandport attended by over 200 concerned residents.
Following a widespread public outcry to this decision, the Board of the NPCA did agree to temporarily suspend the implementation of the new floodplain lines. Despite that, many people remain worried. And I understand why. That is why I wrote to the Chair of the NPCA.
I believe that these type of decisions need to be made on the principles of good science, transparency and public input and notice. I also strongly believe that the NPCA must demonstrate a need for the changes they are proposing and show respect for property rights of these owners.
The NPCA has announced plans to hold public meetings in June to discuss the expanded boudaries. I would encourage you to attend to learn more. You can also express your support for Gerry and his colleagues at the Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, I know many of you agree with me that there is a role for environmental protection and conservation. But I’ve heard from my constituents that some people have got to get past the attitude that our communities are theme parks where no one lives – or needs to earn a living – and that the work for us, not the other way around.