Ontario's Ministry of Transportation has plead guilty to
two charges under the old federal Fisheries Act, and has agreed to pay a
$250,000 penalty.The charges were laid by Fisheries and Oceans
Canada (DFO), and relate to sediment released from a Highway
11 construction project near Burks Falls, Ontario, March 30 to
April 15, 2011. They read as follows:
1)Did deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance
in water frequented by fish or in any place under any condition
where the deleterious substance or any other deleterious substance
that results from the deposit of the deleterious substance may
enter any such water, contrary to section 36(3) of the Fisheries
Act, thereby committing an offence under section 40(2) of that Act;
2)Did unlawfully carry out a work or undertaking that resulted
in the harmful alteration disruption or destruction of fish habitat
contrary to section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act, thereby committing
an offence under section 40(1) of that Act.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) was the owner,
designer and financier of the highway construction project.
Stirling Creek is Fish Habitat
For most of the 11 kilometres of highway that were constructed,
a stream known as Stirling Creek runs nearby. Stirling Creek is a
clear, cold to cool water stream and is a tributary to the
Magnetewan River. Tributaries to Stirling Creek run through the
contract area, several of which MTO identified as fish habitat
prior to construction.
Stirling Creek is fish habitat and anglers have targeted brook
trout within its waters.
Sediment Spills Cause Adverse Effects
During construction of the highway, there were a number of
spills of sediment from the work areas into Stirling Creek and its
tributaries. This sediment adversely affected fish habitat, and
deposited a delta of sediment into Stirling Creek. Some of these
sediment flows were reported, as spills, to the Ontario Ministry of
the Environment Spills Action Centre.
Samples confirmed that some of these flows contained very high
levels of suspended solids and turbidity, which are harmful to fish
and to fish habitat. Sediment is a substance deleterious to
In February 2012, Jennifer Predie, the former DFO Senior Fish
Habitat Biologist in the Parry Sound District, reported that
Stirling Creek is water frequented by fish, particularly by
brook trout. She concluded that sediment leaving the
construction site had been deposited into Stirling Creek and its
tributary, causing a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction
of fish habitat contrary to s. 35 (1) of the Fisheries Act.
Nearby residents report that fishing was poor after construction
10% of the penalty will be paid as a fine; the other 90% will go
to the Environmental Damages Fund.
It is unusual for a highway owner/ designer to accept
liability for erosion during construction.
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