In an unusual turn of events, Ontario's Ministry
of Transportation has had two Fisheries Act convictions this
fall: one for road construction and design, the other for road
In September we blogged about the Ontario
Ministry of Transportation pleading guilty to Fisheries Act charges for sediment
repeatedly released from a Highway 11 construction project near
Burks Falls, Ontario. The total penalty was $250,000, with $225,000
going to Environment Canada's Environmental Damages Fund. It is very rare
for a highway designer to accept responsibility for its design
flaws in this way, and it is unusual for construction erosion
penalties to be so large.
The MTO was also recently convicted of another set of
Fisheries Act charges, this time for a road washout that
sent 8000 tonnes of sediment into the Seguin River system. This
washout caused significant negative impacts to fish and fish
habitat, and happened because MTO failed to properly maintain a
culvert. Once the culvert was obstructed, melt waters, snow and ice
built up against a road embankment. Eventually, the embankment
failed, spilling a high volume of sediment and other materials into
the river. The total penalty was $95,000, with $75,000 directed to
the Environmental Damages Fund. The Fund, in turn, allows the
federal government to award money to local groups for environmental
and wildlife conservation projects.
These two cases have resulted in
notable penalties against Ontario's largest
infrastructure builder. But will they change anything? The
MTO could significantly reduce the environmental impacts of its
transportation infrastructure, but will $340,000 in penalties make
it take precautions that could cost millions? Especially since
recent federal changes to the Fisheries Act may have taken away
much of its teeth? We do note that the Ministry of Transportation
has not publicly acknowledged either of its convictions.
Does anyone know if MTO is actually
planning, or making, any changes as a result of these two cases? If
so, please do write and let us know.
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