Metrolinx - Permit for activities that will result in a significant social or economic benefit to Ontario

Instrument type: Permit for activities that will result in a significant social or economic benefit to Ontario

ERO number
019-4075
Ministry reference number
CR-D-002-21
Notice type
Instrument
Act
Endangered Species Act , R.S.O. 2007
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
January 7, 2022 - February 6, 2022 (30 days) Closed
Last updated

There is no requirement to post this notice on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, but we wanted to hear your thoughts. Thank you for your feedback.

This consultation was open from:
January 7, 2022
to February 6, 2022

Decision summary

The Minister has issued a socio-economic benefit permit under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 to Metrolinx in relation to the Yonge North Subway extension, which may adversely impact species at risk. The permit includes actions to mitigate impacts and outlines key requirements for the protection of species at risk.

Location details

Site location details

The exact area of impact for the Yonge North Subway Extension is not yet known. A larger area, known as “Study Area”, is being considered for the final designs of the project.

The Study Area extends approximately eight kilometres north from Finch Station in the City of Toronto to Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill. Approximately six kilometres of the extension is underground, and approximately two kilometres is at surface level. An additional one kilometre of surface-level track at the northmost portion supports subway operations.

Site location map

The location pin reflects the approximate area where environmental activity is taking place.

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Proponent(s)

Metrolinx
130 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, ON
M5H 3P5
Canada

Decision details

On June 22, 2022, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks issued a socio-economic benefit permit to Metrolinx with respect to the following eight species at risk:

The permit authorizes Metrolinx to engage in activities associated with the construction of the Yonge North Subway Extension that would adversely impact these species.

Protecting species under the Endangered Species Act

Our government is committed to protecting species at risk and providing strong environmental oversight, while working to support development opportunities in the province.

Businesses, municipalities and other proponents are expected to take steps to ensure their projects avoid any adverse impacts on species at risk or their habitats. However, where avoidance is not possible, the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) gives the Minister the discretion to authorize activities if certain conditions can be met.

The Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks may issue a socio-economic benefit permit under the ESA authorizing a person to engage in an activity that would otherwise be prohibited by sections 9 or 10 if the Minister is of the opinion that:

  • the main purpose of the activity authorized by the permit is not to assist in the protection or recovery of the species specified in the permit
  • the activity authorized by the permit will result in a significant social or economic benefit to Ontario
  • the activity authorized by the permit will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species in Ontario
  • reasonable alternatives have been considered, including alternatives that would not adversely affect the species, and the best alternative has been adopted
  • reasonable steps to minimize adverse effects on the species are required by conditions of the permit

Significant social or economic benefit to Ontario

The project is expected to:

  • result in significant social and economic benefits to Ontarians by reducing emissions from vehicular traffic, encouraging transit-oriented development and improving overall mobility and quality of life for Ontarians in the GTA
  • strengthen transit connections with an estimated 94,100 daily riders, shortened travel times between Markham and downtown Toronto and shortened commuting times between York Region and Toronto
  • result in a reduction of 7,700 vehicle kilometres travelled in the morning peak hour, and a reduction of 4,800 tonnes of auto-related greenhouse gas emissions yearly

Authorized activity not expected to jeopardize survival or recovery

The permit includes species-specific mitigation schedules that prescribe:

  • mitigation measures that must be employed to minimize adverse impacts on the species to which the schedule applies
  • actions that must be taken to replace any habitat that is removed

This framework is intended to ensure that:

  • impacts are minimized
  • there is no net loss of species at risk habitat

Given the requirements outlined in the permit, the residual impacts of the project (i.e., impacts after mitigation is applied) are not expected to jeopardize the survival or recovery of any of the eight species included in the permit.

Reasonable alternatives considered

The project will involve the construction of:

  • a below and above ground subway transit line
  • stations
  • associated infrastructure

It will involve activities such as:

  • vegetation disturbance and removal
  • site grading
  • filling
  • excavation
  • stockpiling of soil or other materials
  • construction of retaining walls, rails and roads

The study area for the project extends approximately eight kilometres north from Finch Station in the City of Toronto to Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill.

Approximately six kilometres of the extension is underground, and approximately two kilometres is at surface level.

The proponent has elected to move forward with the majority of the extension being constructed underground. This is expected to significantly reduce impacts to the species.

The permit includes conditions based on alternative means of protecting the species and avoiding adverse effects on the species and their habitat, including requiring:

  • the use of exclusion methods to prevent impacts to the species
  • the protection of Butternut trees of high conservation value where possible
  • restricting specific activities during certain times of the year

Given the general location of the project (i.e., extending north from Finch Station) is not flexible, and given the species-specific mitigation measures included in the permit that require the proponent to avoid adverse impacts to the species where possible, the best alternative that would allow the project to proceed with the project subject to condition outlined in the permit has been adopted.

Actions to minimize negative effects to the species are included in the permit

The permit requires Metrolinx to take actions to minimize negative effects to the species. These include:

  • using qualified professionals with expertise in each of the species to carry out the permit
  • educating contractors on how to identify the species at risk and what steps to take should the species at risk be encountered within the study areas
  • monitoring to determine the effectiveness of these actions
  • taking additional steps if the actions are proven to be ineffective

Other information

A government response statement (GRS), which outlines protection and recovery actions the government will take and support, exists for all species included in the permit except for Chimney Swift.

The issued permit conditions align with actions outlined in the GRS for the species.

Comments received

Through the registry

15

By email

3

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

Below is a summary of the comments received and the ministry’s response.

Comment:

Most comments expressed concern regarding the proposed tunnel segment of the subway extension alignment where it departs the Yonge Street corridor and extends eastward under the Royal Orchard community and Pomona Creek ravine to the existing CN Rail corridor.

A number of the comments in opposition to the proposed alignment also expressed concern regarding what they saw as Metrolinx’ application to by-pass their obligations under the ESA.

Response:

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) enables proponents to seek a permit when they are not reasonably able to avoid adverse impacts to Species at Risk or their habitat. In these circumstances, a permit application is not an application to by-pass the requirements of the ESA, but rather to seek permission for adverse impacts on Species at Risk and their habitats in exchange for complying with the requirements and conditions stipulated in a permit.

Comment:

A number of comments expressed concern regarding unnecessary adverse impacts to Species at Risk as a result of the alignment under the Royal Orchard community and Pomona Creek ravine.

Response:

In response to these comments, the ministry sought additional information from the proponent (i.e. Ecological Land Classification mapping) to help identify potential suitable habitat for Species at Risk within this particular segment.

Based on information provided by the proponent, the Species at Risk Branch found habitats for the species were no more likely to occur within the segment under the Royal Orchard community and Pomona Creek ravine than if the segment continued under Yonge Street.

Comment:

The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) submitted comments via email in support of Metrolinx seeking an ESA permit prior to the detailed design stage. TRCA identified a willingness to partner with Metrolinx in delivering habitat compensation options.

Response:

Comment shared with the proponent.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Species at Risk Branch
Address

40 St Clair Ave West
Toronto, ON
M4V 1M2
Canada

Appeal

Appeals are not allowed

This instrument type cannot be appealed. Learn more about our consultation process.

Connect with us

Contact

Clairissa Myschowoda

Phone number
Office
Species at Risk Branch - Permissions and Compliance
Address

300 Water Street
4th Floor, South tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada

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Follow this notice

Original proposal

ERO number
019-4075
Ministry reference number
CR-D-002-21
Notice type
Instrument
Act
Endangered Species Act , R.S.O. 2007
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

January 7, 2022 - February 6, 2022 (30 days)

Why consultation isn't required

We are not required to consult the public on this permit proposal. Section 32 of the Environmental Bill of Rights exempts instrument proposals that are issued as a step toward implementing a project that has been approved under the Environmental Assessment Act. The Yonge North Subway Extension is a project that was approved under the Environmental Assessment Act.

We are voluntarily posting this notice to advise the public of this proposal and to invite the public to submit written comments to the contact person identified in this notice.

Proposal details

Ontario is committed to protecting species at risk and strong environmental oversight, while we work to improve public transit in a way that is both economical and transparent.

Metrolinx is seeking a socio-economic permit in relation to the Yonge North Subway Extension that will improve public transit along the Yonge subway line.

The Yonge North Subway Extension will involve the construction of below and above ground:

  • subway transit line
  • stations
  • associated infrastructure

A significant portion of the line is planned to be constructed underground. It will involve activities such as:

  • vegetation disturbance and removal
  • site grading
  • filling
  • excavation
  • stockpiling of soil or other materials
  • construction of retaining walls, rails and roads as are necessary to construct the project within the Study Area

The following species at risk have been observed within the study area for the project:

There is evidence that the following species may be found within the study area:

Collectively, these nine species at risk are referred to as “the species” in the context of this notice.

Much of the Study Area has not yet been surveyed in detail for the species at risk. The proposed permit would require surveys to confirm or refute the presence of the additional species before construction activities begin.

Protecting species under the Endangered Species Act

Ontario provides protections for species at risk and their habitats under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Sections 9 and 10 of the ESA provide protection for individual members of a species and their habitat if that species is listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List as either:

  • extirpated
  • endangered
  • threatened

Under clause 17(2)(d) of the ESA, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks may issue a permit authorizing a person to engage in an activity that would otherwise be prohibited by sections 9 or 10 if the Minister is of the opinion that:

  • the activity authorized by the permit will result in a significant social or economic benefit to Ontario
  • the activity authorized by the permit will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species in Ontario
  • reasonable alternatives have been considered, including alternatives that would not adversely affect the species, and the best alternative that would allow the projects to continue has been adopted
  • reasonable steps to minimize adverse effects on the species are required by conditions of the permit

Significant social or economic benefit to Ontario

The Yonge North Subway Extension is expected to result in significant social and economic benefits to Ontarians, such as:

  • bringing rapid transit to new areas
  • reducing emissions from vehicular traffic
  • encouraging transit-oriented development
  • improving overall mobility and quality of life for Ontarians in the GTA

The Yonge North Subway Extension is expected to make it faster and easier for more people to travel between York Region and downtown Toronto, and beyond, while cutting down on traffic congestion and pollution.

Reasonable alternatives being considered

Metrolinx is exploring reasonable alternatives, including those that would avoid adverse effects on the species and their habitat. Many of these alternatives will be refined in the detailed planning stages of the projects.

The proposed permit will provide clear direction on:

  • species-specific avoidance measures
  • reasonable measures to minimize adverse effects on species
  • mitigation and compensation requirements

This way, if final project layout and design result in impacts to the species and their habitat, the proposed permit would provide species-specific guidance for project planners to develop and implement designs with reduced impacts on species at risk and their habitat.

Actions to minimize negative effects to the species

Metrolinx is seeking ways to minimize adverse effects on the species and their habitat. These may include:

  • conducting studies to confirm or refute the presence of the species before beginning construction
    • working at the time of year when the species are less sensitive to disturbance
    • if habitat will be removed:
      • removing it at the time of year when the species are less likely to be present
      • creating new or enhancing existing habitat for the species to compensate for the habitat that was removed
    • if any members of the species will be removed (i.e. Butternut), compensating for these impacts through actions that benefit the species (e.g. plantings)
    • educating contractors on how to identify the species at risk and what steps to take should the species at risk be encountered within the study areas
    • monitoring the effectiveness of any steps taken to minimize adverse effects on the species and taking additional steps if they are ineffective

Other information

A government response statement, which outlines protection and recovery actions the government will take and support, exists for the following species and will be considered before a decision is made on whether to issue a permit:

A government response statement has not been published for Chimney Swift.

Posting this proposal on the Environmental Registry does not imply that we will issue a permit. A permit may only be issued where the legal requirements set out in clause 17(2)(d) of the Endangered Species Act, 2007 have been satisfied.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from January 7, 2022
to February 6, 2022

Connect with us

Contact

Clairissa Myschowoda

Phone number
Office
Species at Risk Branch - Permissions and Compliance
Address

300 Water Street
4th Floor, South tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada