I have long been a strong supporter of Ontario’s conservation authorities and have recently been sharing on social media the distressing message that the Ford government is about to gut them, however, I am now extremely disappointed with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA).

A YouTube video was released of their November 17 Special Board of Directors meeting, called to review the government changes to the Conservation Act. At this same meeting, [minutes 2:20 - 10:30 in the video] GSCA rushed through a permit for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula to remove a swath of dune almost a half km long along the western side of Lakeshore Blvd. at Sauble Beach, remove vegetation, install a concrete block wall, and regrade the level of the remaining dune slope down to meet this wall. The work is to widen the parking along Lakeshore and the Town plans to move northward with the project in subsequent budget years. There have been many reasonable alternate solutions proposed to the Town that would address all parking safety issues and not compromise the dune ecosystem. The Town of South Bruce Peninsula failed to consult in advance with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) about the proposed plan and as a result of SON’s opposition, the Town has delayed the work by just one week while they address the concerns raised by SON.

At the GSCA special meeting the directors discussed briefly, in very basic terms, the scope of the work at Sauble. Their policy in an Environmental Hazard zone is no development, yet they chose to make an exception. No mention whatsoever that the vegetation being removed includes many very tall pine and birch trees, not just some dune grasses. GSCA was OK with removed sand being trucked to the dump. The discussion about sand removal lacked detail, it is not as simplistic as just plowing alongside the road to remove drifted sand, there will be tonnes of sand removed. Only two short questions were asked by directors. GSCA clearly understood this work should not be permitted by policy, yet they agreed to an exception which I believe was based on a lack of understanding as to how extensive the proposed work really is. They did not view the stakes installed in the dunes to delineate the western edge of the work as the stakes were not even installed until after this meeting. GSCA seemed to not know the true extent of the sand and vegetation removal and did not question it.

GSCA has approved a very environmentally damaging project without doing their due diligence. Huge red flags should have gone up for them, including the Town’s being found guilty - twice - for damaging the habitat of an endangered species. Surely GSCA knows that there is ongoing litigation with SON regarding the ownership of this area, yet chose not to ask if SON had even been consulted.

If this is how the GSCA makes decisions, let the Ford government take away their power because they aren’t doing their job anyway. This is not reasonable leadership. This plan is not sustainable management of a renewable natural resource, it is removal of a limited natural resource. I am regretfully removing my support of CAs going forward unless this decision is reversed.

Ann Rolfe
Shedden / Sauble Beach