ALUS gains ground at Queen’s Park

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - FRONT PAGE - MONTE SONNENBERG

Of­fi­cials at Queen’s Park are tak­ing a hard look at en­vi­ron­men­tal mea­sures that might mit­i­gate the worst im­pacts of cli­mate change.

The Ford gov­ern­ment re­jects car­bon taxes and has promised to fight Ot­tawa on this count.

How­ever, the gov­ern­ment has thrown its sup­port be­hind a pri­vate-mem­ber’s bill that would ob­li­gate the provin­cial bu­reau­cracy to pro­mote Al­ter­na­tive Land Use Ser­vices (ALUS) as a re­sponse to ex­treme weather events.

The bill, which has passed se­cond read­ing, is spon­sored by lo­cal MPP Toby Bar­rett. The bill has been re­ferred to the leg­is­la­ture’s Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Reg­u­la­tions and Pri­vate Bills for pos­si­ble pub­lic hear­ings.

“I do ask all of us to imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties,” Bar­rett said last week. “We’ve seen the re­sults down here. Streams in Nor­folk where ALUS has been im­ple­mented are run­ning clear. I checked them this fall. No mud what­so­ever. These pro­grams pay back and then some, big time.”

Bar­rett’s bill has at­tracted an un­usu­ally high level of sup­port.

Not only did all par­ties in the leg- is­la­ture en­dorse it, it has the for­mal sup­port of the On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture, the Chris­tian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion of On­tario, the World Wildlife Fund, the In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada, the On­tario Home Builders As­so­ci­a­tion, the On­tario Fed­er­a­tion of An­glers and Hunters, and Delta Water­fowl among oth­ers.

ALUS stands for “al­ter­na­tive land use ser­vices.” ALUS is based on the prin­ci­ple that own­ers of mar­ginal land in ru­ral ar­eas should be paid to make im­prove­ments to their prop­erty that pro­duce en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits.

ALUS in Canada be­gan nearly 20 years ago with water­fowl wet­land restora­tion projects out west.

About 10 years ago, ALUS was set up as a pi­lot pro­gram in Nor­folk County. ALUS has gone na­tional with af­fil­i­ates in most ev­ery prov­ince and ma­jor sup­port from bene­fac­tors such as the W. Garfield We­ston Foun­da­tion.

ALUS is gen­er­at­ing in­ter­est be­cause it pro­vides so­lu­tions to prob­lems aris­ing from in­fras­truc­ture fail­ures in Cana­dian cities.

Since the 1700s, ur­ban­iza­tion in Canada has in­volved the de­for­esta­tion and drain­ing of wet­lands. Au­thor­i­ties to­day rec­og­nize this was a mis­take that con­trib­utes to flash flood­ing in places where most ev­ery­thing is con­crete or paved over.

With base­ment re­pairs run­ning as high as $40,000 per house­hold fol­low­ing a flood, ALUS is es­pe­cially of in­ter­est to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

Bar­rett says ALUS projects re­store nat­u­ral “sponges” on the land­scape that forests and wet­lands once pro­vided.

With nat­u­ral reser­voirs in place, pre­cip­i­ta­tion is cap­tured and slowly re­leased into rivers and streams in­stead of as a tor­rent into neigh­bour­hoods ill-equipped to han­dle it.

Bar­rett’s Bill 28 was on the agenda of a Nat­u­ral In­fras­truc­ture Fo­rum in Win­nipeg last week. Bar­rett was a guest speaker. Also at­tend­ing was Bryan Gil­vesy of Till­son­burg, an ALUS pi­o­neer and the CEO of ALUS Canada.

“The built in­fras­truc­ture we have to­day did not an­tic­i­pate cli­mate chal­lenges,” Gil­vesy said. “With the cli­mate chang­ing, we did not an­tic­i­pate what was com­ing. That’s the co­nun­drum we are in to­day.

“Wet­lands and forests have greater car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity be­cause they have more or­ganic mat­ter, both liv­ing and dead. Or­ganic mat­ter acts as a sponge. I take the farmer’s per­spec­tive: If I have more or­ganic mat­ter in my soil, I’m go­ing to hang onto more mois­ture when it rains.”

If Bar­rett’s pri­vate-mem­bers bill is read into law, the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry will be re­quired to pro­mote ALUS, pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on po­ten­tial ALUS projects, pro­duce stan­dard­ized ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als, pro­mote fundrais­ing for ALUS projects, and pro­mote re­search into po­ten­tial ALUS tech­niques.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Wet­land projects such as this one at the prop­erty of Paul Mau­the in Delhi cap­ture rain from sum­mer storms and re­lease it slowly and nat­u­rally into the en­vi­ron­ment. The ca­pac­ity of wet­lands to mod­u­late the im­pact of storm events has piqued in­ter­est in the Al­ter­na­tive Land Use Ser­vices (ALUS) pro­gram in ur­ban ar­eas across Canada.

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