HEATHER BOA Bullet News GODERICH – What can small communities like Goderich do in the face of the increasing frequency of natural disasters over the past century, wonders this town’s mayor.
“When you first think about climate change and [melting] polar caps, to me it’s almost overwhelming. What the hell can I do as the mayor of a little town on climate change?” Deb Shewfelt asked, during the annual Mayor’s Luncheon, hosted by the Huron Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Trends are emerging of hotter, drier summers and warm, wetter winters, causing the potential for droughts, more intense rainfall and erosion
Shewfelt said the issue of acid rain as outlined in a milestones report from the Good Roads Association is a good example of how each can do its small part. In the 1970s, governments issued regulations to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which has resulted in a 65 per cent drop.
“I guess if we applied that same thought to climate change, we can make the difference. We can make a difference locally,” said Shewfelt, who is chair of the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority.
Within that watershed are some of the finest agricultural lands in the country, small-mouth bass fishing in the province, attractive beaches along the Lake Huron shoreline, and hardwood forests in Ontario.
“The economy and the well-being of municipalities are still largely dependent on the nature and the resources of the watershed,” he said.
To protect the assets, communities will need to build a more resilient watershed and improving flood emergency planning, as outlined in the MVCA’s 2010 five-year strategy.
“The challenge is too big for any of us to face alone. A lot of this will entail us to rethink how to design our services related to use of energy, how we manage water and plan for severe weather emergencies, especially flooding – and I would add tornados to that,” he said.
There are 15 flood-damage centres in the Maitland watershed that are subject to flooding. As well, flooding occurs elsewhere during severe thunderstorms as a result of inadequate storm water management systems that cannot handle the intense rainfalls that happen with increasing frequency.
Rural communities are just starting consider how to deal with storm water management to protect $276 million in development along the Lake Huron shoreline in the Maitland watershed. As well, natural infrastructure such as buffer strips, berms, wetlands and grassways can all help control storm water to keep soil nutrients on the land.
“Sure, we can say that’s in the country, why do we care? We need to care because in our position we’re at the bottom of the watershed,” he said.
During the Mayor’s Luncheon, Shewfelt outlined a number of “good news” stories in Goderich:
- After 25 years, the town has separated its storm and sanitary sewers. “I can say in the last two years we have not put raw sewage in the lake. I think that’s a big accomplishment,” he said. His comment was met by clapping from the audience.
- A boundary agreement between the Town of Goderich and the Municipality of Central Huron that is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will potentially increase available residential building lots from less than five to hundreds. Fusion Homes proposes a phased-in residential mix of 300 single-family dwellings, townhouses and condominiums up to five storeys high, with green space along the lake and linking areas of the development. At its start, it intends to develop 100 acres north of Dechert Road.
- A plan for 915586 Ontario Ltd., represented by Herb Marshall, to relocate the historic CPR train station to a patch of municipally owned land directly west of its current home and south of Goderich Elevators’ weigh station and create a beachfront restaurant. His long-term goal is to create a convention centre on the site, which Shewfelt says is badly needed in the area.
- The success of the Maitland Valley Medical Centre as a result of ongoing doctor recruitment efforts, which has brought the town from more than 5,000 orphan patients – people who have no family doctor – in 2006, to just 300 this year.
- Expansion of the industrial park on Parson’s Court, south of the Knight’s of Columbus Centre, to accommodate small businesses, which Shewfelt believes will bring jobs to the community.
- Goderich TS upgrade from 40 MW to 65 MW, allowing a third feeder so that industrial operations at the mine can be met on a dedicated line. “It would have been a calamity if we couldn’t have supplied it,” he said. Once post-tornado repairs and upgrades are complete, “we’ll have probably one of the best infrastructures in Ontario,” he said.
- Development of Harbour Hills Retirement Apartments, which will provide a housing alternative for the senior population.