City looks at building new ground

Toronto City Council recently passed a motion calling for an environmental assessment (EA) of possible new landforms on the city’s waterfront. The multiple projects in the EA would have the goals of building up land that will help improve water quality at Sunnyside Beach in the West End, near the mouth of the Humber River, as well as building up land south of the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant (ABTP) that will be used for a high-rate treatment facility for combined sewer overflows, a stormwater wetland, and land mass for projects by other parties with plans for the waterfront.

Toronto Water General Manager Lou di Gironimo admitted most of the components of the Ashbridges plan have already been looked at as parts of several previous plans.

“All of those have been through different environmental assessments. What we didn’t complete was a more detailed environmental assessment on filling out that entire water lot,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity to take into account everything that’s been looked at over the last few years.”

The requested EA will be spearheaded by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, and funded by Toronto Water, said di Gironimo. The plan will look to take advantage of a large amount of clean fill being generated by several Toronto Water projects, as well as by other city infrastructure, including TTC construction.

A ‘triple bottom line’ approach is used in the EA process, he said, including the environmental, social and financial implications of building a large land mass on the waterfront. An ambitious plan for a city-wide park known as Lake Ontario Park had called for a walking path connecting the Leslie Street Spit with Ashbridges Bay Park – the land mass for the stormwater ponds and new treatment facility would also provide the opportunity to build that pathway at the same time. The twinning of the Coxwell sewer, plans to deal with sewer overflows into the Coatsworth Cut and plans for a tunnel to deal with overflows in the Don River will also all feed into the new facilities at ABTP.

“This is essentially the culmination of three or four different studies,” said di Gironimo.

The ABTP portion of the larger study is independent from the Humber Bay plan, which has seen more attention, due to the fact that a number of artificial islands may be created running into the lake from the river mouth.

“We’re just looking at the fact that both of them require lake infilling and landforms, so it’s the perfect opportunity to go forward as one EA,” said di Gironimo.

Work will begin in 2013 on the study; he said that it will likely take several years of study and public consultation before any physical work begins. 2016 would be the earliest any construction might begin.

“There’s a number of things that could slow it up, but as we always said, this is a long-term proposition,” said di Gironimo.

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