URLA recommendations to Westport Official Plan

Updated: Feb 9

Stronger measures to address increased development pressures, especially shoreline naturalization buffers, improved management of agriculture and storm water runoff, soil erosion reduction, increased infiltration and septic system inspections.


Dear Mayor Jones, and Councillors Brady, Card, Carty and Roberts:

We are writing to contribute to the Westport Official Plan (OP) update, from a lake health and water quality perspective.


As you may recall, the water quality of the Upper Rideau Lake is “poor”. This past summer, our lake experienced two confirmed “blue green” algae blooms. At the same time, our region and our lake are experiencing longer hotter summers -- and very significant development pressures -- which heighten the risks for water quality.


Westport is developing quickly -- its population, services and housing stock may well grow by some 50 percent in the years ahead.


Given these known risks and developments, the OP update offers a real opportunity for Westport to set out its overarching land use policies to strengthen lake water quality, and lake health.


Planning Context:

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) directs that OP policies protect, improve or restore water quality, and address climate change and adaptation. (See Annex A, for more PPS details.)


Westport includes some 80 waterfront properties (including Westport Sand Lake, and the “Pond”). Indeed, most if not all Village lots eventually drain into streams, and into the Rideau sub watershed. The tourism sector and much of the other economic bases of the Village are directly linked to the Upper Rideau.


Current research (Prof. J. Smol, Queen’s U and others) indicates water quality is being impacted by climate change, that traditional phosphorus targets may no longer be adequate, that far more attention to diffusing nutrient sources is needed and that land use planning measures to increase buffers and control run off are essential.


The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority supports these conclusions. RVCA recommends stronger measures to address increased development pressures, especially shoreline naturalization buffers, improved management of agriculture and storm water runoff, soil erosion reduction, increased infiltration and septic system inspections.


In short, a “healthy” Upper Rideau Lake is clearly in the interests of all, not least Westport.


Recommendations:


1) That Westport establish among its overarching OP objectives, to:

a. maintain and improve the quality of the environment, particularly with respect to the health of the Upper Rideau Lake; and

b. protect, restore, and improve water quality and the shoreline environment;


2) That the OP expressly set out how Westport land use policies will meet the sustainability objectives set out in the PPS – and the County OP - in relation to the existing and future capacity and maintenance of the Village septic system(s), both municipal and private;


3) With respect to storm water management, that the OP set out objectives and practices to strengthen water quality protection from nutrients in run off (e.g., incorporation of “low impact development measures”, restoring shore line buffers, retrofitting Village catch basins, incorporating storm water management “best practices” into infrastructure renewal, etc.);


4) That the OP establish land use policy objectives mitigating the impact of climate change, particularly with respect to development adjacent to lakes and streams; and


5) With respect to lake water quality, include policies which expressly take lake capacity and health into consideration, adjust land use policy accordingly, and engage citizenry on the importance of lake health.


The Westport Harbour warrants particular attention in the OP. Given the anticipated boat traffic on the Upper Rideau and need for additional boat mooring in the Village – not least, from new Westport residents (given anticipated luxury home sales of 25 units/year, for next 16 years) -- what is the plan for the harbour, given the broader environmental and water quality objectives set out above?


Thank you for providing the opportunity to input into the update of Westport’s official plan.


Sincerely,


John McDowell

President, Upper Rideau Lake Association



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