Wetlands planned for Ashbridges Bay

[attach]5958[/attach]Toronto’s waterfront may be getting a facelift if plans for a marsh in Ashbridges Bay go ahead.

The city is looking into creating a wetlands area in the bay in order to deal with storm water overflows, said Toronto Water’s general manager, Lou Di Gironimo.

“The city does own a water lot south of the plant so what this proposal would do is start to fill in that water lot,” Di Gironimo said. “Once we have that area filled in we can then use it for (wastewater) treatment purposes.”

In early April, city council agreed to an environmental assessment that will look into the impacts of the project in Ashbridges Bay and a similar project in Humber Bay. The project would use excavated earth or “fill” from various construction developments in the city, possibly including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, to create a landform in Lake Ontario similar to the Leslie Street Spit.

“All we’re doing is mimicking what we did in the past but on a much smaller scale,” Di Gironimo said. “The spit is very large, these are smaller features.”

Rather than just being a peninsula like the Spit, the Ashbridges Bay project would create a marsh to contain the storm water and sewage, which occasionally is spewed from combined sewers that empty into the lake during periods of high precipitation. A high-rate treatment facility would also be constructed to treat whatever is discharged from the sewers.

“This idea’s been around for probably about 10 years or more,” Di Gironimo said.

“Sometimes we get too much water and it overloads the sewers and causes basement flooding, and then in the older parts of the city we have a quality issue,” he added. “When we have too much water, it fills the sewers and we have the overflows where we have some sewage getting out into our rivers and to our waterfront.”

As part of the project, the city would also look into constructing a system that would funnel sewer overflows to the proposed Ashbridges Bay facility for treatment.

“We do have preliminary approval to look at building a tunnel down the lower Don River and that would pick up a lot of the overflows,” Di Gironimo said. “It would take that flow, send it over to this location and pretreat it before we send it back to the lake.”

Currently Ashbridges Bay is home to the Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club and the Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club. While officials from the sailing club could not be reached for comment by press time, the yacht club’s manager said an official position on the proposed project would be decided after an upcoming board meeting.

The current proposal for the Ashbridges Bay marsh leaves a waterway on the east side of the bay, which provides access in and out of the bay where the clubs are located.

However, boaters won’t have to worry about a change in the bay anytime soon. While Di Gironimo said he was confident the project would proceed one day, he mentioned it would take about four years to conclude the environmental assessments and another 10 to 15 years just to create the landform itself.

“I’d say there’s a good chance we could get something like that because we would use clean fill from construction,” he said. “They’re all longer term plans. They require lots of money and many years to construct but we’ve got to start somewhere so we’re starting with the studies.”