Lakefill Proposal to Improve Marine Safety Around Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

Toronto (June 18, 2012) On June 14, 2012, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) hosted a public meeting at the Radisson Admiral Hotel to discuss a proposal to distribute lakefill under the surface of Lake Ontario just east of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA).
The proposal would see natural materials placed in a site of approximately 50-by-100-metres within an area currently designated a Marine Exclusion Zone (MEZ).  These zones prohibit the entry of marine vessels due to their proximity to flight paths. Under the proposal, the lakefill material would remain a half-metre below the lake surface to act as a physical deterrent  to boaters, such as is already the case at the west side of the airport where shallow waters naturally exist.
The excavation of clean fill from the BBTCA pedestrian tunnel presents an opportunity to use materials for this proposed project, however, materials from other construction projects around the waterfront could also be considered.
The MEZ lakefill proposal is a convenient, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way of improving safety, disposing of natural material, and enhancing marine habitats. Below are relevant facts associated with the proposal.
Questions and Answers:
Is this a plan to extend BBTCA runways?
There is no plan to extend the runway at BBTCA. The airport operates under the oversight of the Tripartite Agreement between the City of Toronto, the federal government and the TPA. The Tripartite Agreement does not allow the TPA to extend its runways.
Furthermore, this proposal will not create new land surface. The lakefill is designed to top off at 0.5 metres below the lake surface.
Why are you putting forward this proposal now?
Enhancing safety within the MEZ with a physical deterrent in addition to a series of existing “Keep Out” buoys has been an objective of the TPA for several years. We also have an opportunity to enhance marine wildlife habitats.
Furthermore, we have heard residents’ concerns about the noise and congestion associated with the construction of the BBTCA tunnel, especially large vehicles using Eireann Quay. With the BBTCA tunnel project underway, the lakefill proposal is an opportunity to reduce the traffic of construction vehicles for the benefit of our neighbours.
Isn’t this just a part of the BBTCA tunnel project?
This is not part of the tunnel project, which will proceed regardless if this proposal is approved. This proposal was designed to further improve the safe use and operation of the BBTCA by improving the MEZ. If material from the separate tunnel project is available for use, it will be used, particularly if that would provide even further benefits to the environment and local residents.
Will there be an Environmental Assessment?
The proposal will require an Environmental Assessment (EA) to be conducted under the Canada Port Authority Environmental Assessment Regulations. The EA will consider the effects, both in the construction and over time, on the environment, the significance of such effects, public comments, and measures to mitigate adverse effects.
A Notice of Commencement of an Environmental Assessment for this proposal was posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s website on May 16, 2012. As a further courtesy, the TPA also reached out to local waterfront city councilors’ offices and city administration staff in May, to preview the project’s benefits.
Are there any environmental benefits to the MEZ lakefill proposal?
Consultations with aquatic habitat stakeholders have indicated the proposal could create new fish habitats to enhance the marine ecosystem of Toronto Harbour.
Furthermore, lakefill is a common and environmentally friendly way to relocate natural materials from construction sites. The Leslie Street Spit and Tommy Thompson Park consist almost entirely of materials from elsewhere.
The TPA is currently contributing and building a new $1.0 million fish habitat at Tommy Thompson Park.  The TPA also manages the transport and distribution of lakefill at this park. The TPA has extensive experience with lakefill projects and marine protection.
Finally, the proposal includes implementing several environmental protection measures, such as sedimentation barriers to prevent possible adverse affects to underwater habitats during the lakefill relocation process.
How do you plan to consult with the community?
In addition to the recent June 14th public information meeting hosted by the TPA at the Radisson Admiral Hotel, there will be additional public communications to update the community on the EA’s progress and other relevant issues. The TPA is also consulting with a wide variety of other stakeholders about the proposal, including the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, Nav Canada, Environment Canada, the City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto, Aquatic Habitat Toronto, local First Nations, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
The proposed lakefill project is expected to take place over 18 months beginning in the summer of 2012.
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Media contact: Ken Lundy 416-863-2040