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Draft Wildlife Strategy

DRAFT REPORT

The City has been reviewing its Wildlife Strategy, a document that outlines how we interact with our wildlife neighbours. The report will go to committee on June 17, 2024 for consideration, and to Council at a later date.

While reviewing the strategy, I made some first-impression notes. Here's what I saw:

Draft Wildlife Strategy - live notes

I’m reading through the Wildlife Strategy that went online last night. It will be tabled at a committee meeting on June 17. Here are my immediate thoughts as I read it:

This strategy is an update from the 2013 doc. It admits a lot has changed, including impacts of climate change. And public opinion has shifted: residents want animals that enter the city rescued, not killed.

Last year’s shooting of a young bear by police caused outrage and much of the public does not want it to happen again. This report is supposed to address that issue, among other things.

From the top, the report talks about “wildlife-transmitted disease” but focuses on Lyme Disease. I don’t think ticks are what anyone meant by “wildlife” but that’s an issue we can discuss.

Report notes that By-law Enforcement is responsible for transfer of sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife to Humane Society, vets, and rehabs.

On to public feedback: residents’ priorities are better education to prevent conflicts; reduction or elimination of lethal wildlife practices, including for beavers and coyotes; and asks that the strategy include protections for birds. More work is needed on birds…

Animal rehab orgs complain that the City completely depends on them to take in injured and orphaned animals but doesn’t fund them at all. This does seem unfair.

Big section on the Official Plan, which calls for protection of habitat. Says City will prioritize habitat protection and purchases. This is good.

Establishes advisory board to meet twice yearly. Includes experts!

Calls to review the city’s wildlife web pages twice/year, to better identify who to call about wildlife (this has been a big problem) and to do more social media about animals.

Great recommendations to consider locations for wildlife crossings over/under roads and highways, something Ottawa has lacked

Big section on mitigation costs – the City has to mitigate for protected species at risk under provincial law. This means that when a developer wants to expand and it might affect critical habitat, the City has to pay for habitat maintenance and replacement. The city wants to find a way to charge someone for this.

The 2013 report recommended the hiring of a wildlife specialist. They never hired anyone. This report recommends that too, but has found temporary funding.

That’s good news. But the report also depends on that one staffer to solve the problem of big mammals (bears, moose, etc) entering neighbourhoods. I think this needs clarity…

Beavers: City currently hires trappers to kill beavers that dam “drains” (e.g. streams, rivers, ditches). Many residents have called for this to stop.

Report recommends continuing current practices while looking into alternatives. This is definitely an area I’d like to see further considered…

Coyotes: report recognizes that coyotes are less dangerous than lightening and that killing coyotes doesn’t actually make a difference. Recommends working with Coyote Watch Canada to educate the public. $48K/year.

Finally, says clearing vegetation in spring and summer is problematic for breeding birds and animals, but admits that limiting them to fall and winter is impractical. No solutions offered, so we’ll need to work on this one, too.

Overall, many residents will be disappointed in this report. It makes some positive changes, but also sticks with the status quo on several pieces.

I’ll continue working on this file in the coming weeks.

Johnson: How cycling lanes across Highway 417 will transform Ottawa

Ottawa Citizen Op-ed: How cycling lanes across Highway 417 will change Ottawa | Ottawa Citizen

Almost daily, as the city councillor for College Ward, I see families squeezing down the narrow edge of a Highway 417 overpass to reach the other side — to get to school, to daycare, to shopping. It’s scary. And what happens when people are too scared to walk or cycle? They drive.

And daily, I receive emails from residents who are frustrated with congestion, speeding and buses not getting them where they need to go on time.

We now are being given the chance to start addressing it all.

With a new agreement between the Province of Ontario and the City of Ottawa, we will see four spans across Highway 417 replaced with enough width for an actual sidewalk, and actual cycle tracks with protection from the vehicles. They are: the Richmond Road interchange; Pinecrest interchange; Woodroffe interchange; and Maitland interchange.

Since these spans are replaced only every 75 years, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for two levels of government to work together and invest in a vision that creates real choice for people about how they want to get around. And we did. The city is contributing $5.4 million from its active transportation budget to pay for one, and the province is absorbing the cost of the other three in question.

 

Map of Highway 417 interchanges
Four interchanges will get bike lanes in future.

 

Why is this so significant? The provincial Ministry of Transportation is responsible for enacting provisions of the Highway Traffic Act. It’s in the primary business of moving people by car down the highway, over the spans, and up and down the access ramps, as efficiently as possible.

However, when that highway bisects a city as the 417 does Ottawa? For those in cars, it’s a east-west access. For everyone else, it’s a wall.

As Ottawa has grown, College Ward, once the heart of the City of Nepean, is no longer on the edge of the city. We now have large suburbs all around whose residents want access to what our city has to offer both north and south: the river, the LRT, the Greenbelt, shopping, schools, good employers. This growing population is straining our transportation network, and we are taking longer to get to where we want to go.

We sit in traffic. Buses sit in traffic. Cut-through traffic comes in to residential neighbourhoods at high speeds. The city pays for temporary traffic-calming but we can barely keep up. So people don’t feel safe to walk or bike anywhere, which means you’re going to choose to drive and sit in traffic. You’re not going to opt for a bus because it can’t get you anywhere on time (the most recent statistics from OC Transpo cited that 32 per cent of trips not delivered on time were because of on-street service adjustments, including traffic congestion). You’re locked into a bad choice. Does that feel like freedom to you?

It doesn’t feel like freedom for me, when I have to load two kids in snowsuits into a car in winter just to go get a bag of milk. It doesn’t feel like freedom for the parent who is late for work because they feel compelled to drive their kid to school, four blocks away. It doesn’t feel like freedom for those kids who don’t want to get dropped off by said parents because it’s too embarrassing. It doesn’t feel like freedom for the paramedic who is trying to reach an incident but no one can move over.

We need safe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure so that the people who can, will choose to walk or cycle to get something done. They can make that choice and decrease the number of cars on the road. The fewer cars on the road, the less congestion there is for those who can’t choose anything but a vehicle, and we get our buses moving around better. We get some actual freedom of movement within our communities, which increases local spending, enhances neighbourhood relationships and community safety, and gives us better air to breathe.

I was glad to work with MTO and city staff for a vision that promotes freedom of choice in our growing city.

Laine Johnson is the city councillor for College Ward.

 

New active transportation facilities on the Hwy 417 bridges

New active transportation facilities on the Hwy 417 bridges

Over the next several years, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) will replace the bridges/overpasses at Richmond Road, Pinecrest Ave, Woodroffe Ave, and Maitland Ave.

I have been working with Councillor Theresa Kavanagh, Mayor Sutcliffe, and our provincial counterparts to ensure that those new structures include better, safer transportation routes for pedestrians and cyclists. And I am very pleased that MTO has come onside and will build active transportation infrastructure as part of their plan.

The City of Ottawa is investing $5.4 million (which was already earmarked for active transportation projects like this one) to improve the Maitland bridge. MTO will do the rest on their own. The City will also work on connections between the bridges and area cycling routes and sidewalks.

Beginning May 22 and until June 5, 2024, MTO has an online Public Information Centre for the Maitland and Woodroffe bridges.

You can also read the full Subject matter - Report to Committee (escribemeetings.com).

Ottawa Citizen: Bears in the backyard: Here's what advocates want to see in Ottawa's updated wildlife strategy

Ottawa Citizen: Bears in the backyard: Here's what advocates want to see in Ottawa's updated wildlife strategy

Full story by Joanne Laucius

People are still getting bounced from one level of government to another when they have a question or concern about wildlife, said Johnson. It happened to a member of her staff earlier this month when the staffer had concerns about a sickly-looking coyote repeatedly sighted in the City View neighbourhood.

“Many jurisdictions have a finger in the pie of our green space. They all have some, but not all of the responsibility,” she said. “It should be easy to make one call and ensure that the correct responding agency knows about the situation. We have a wealth of expertise.”

CBC: How Ottawa residents are trying to coexist with urban wildlife

CBC: How Ottawa residents are trying to coexist with urban wildlife

Full story

By Emma Weller, CBC

April 1, 2024

Dan Brunton was shocked when he came face-to-face with a bear at his home a few years ago near Mud Lake. 

He was curious when he heard rustling in his garbage can, presuming it was a raccoon. As he walked up to scare it away, the head of a roughly 90-kilogram black bear popped out of his garbage. 

"We get young bears coming into the city fairly regularly, but this adult was a real surprise," said Brunton, a retired ecological consultant. 

These kinds of encounters may be more common this year.

Earlier this month, the province issued a warning that bears might be coming out of hibernation early this spring due to warmer temperatures. 

And with a lack of natural food sources available this time of the year, they'll be on the hunt for other meals.

"The problem there is that if [an animal] doesn't go away and there's some interaction with people, which is almost always the people's fault … the animal dies," Brunton said.

"That's the most common outcome of these things."

In his scenario, authorities safely got the bear back into its habitat, Brunton said — but that's not always the case.

City has responsibility, says councillor

Weaved throughout Ottawa's neighbourhoods, the Greenbelt and the Ottawa River have created homes for urban wildlife, right next to some people's backyards.

While residents reap the benefits of the city's green space and ecosystems, they also at times struggle to coexist with that wildlife.

Given Ottawa's amount of greenspace, the city has a greater responsibility when it comes to managing the city's relationship with urban wildlife, said College ward Coun. Laine Johnson. 

Last year, a bear wandered into the Bridlewood neighbourhood looking for food after coming out of its hibernation and was killed by Ottawa police. 

"We were all deeply disappointed," Johnson said. "If we had been able to respond in a different way, I think we could have saved that bear. And unfortunately, that was not the case."

Bears and other animals often saunter into nearby neighbourhoods in search of food, with garbage, bird feeders and vegetable gardens all serving as tempting options.

People who live around areas where urban wildlife thrive need to be educated on how to respond appropriately when animals roam onto their streets, Johnson said. 

Johnson said her office will be releasing a wildlife strategy plan in September. She's also urged the City of Ottawa to invest more money to help harmonize the relationship between humans and wildlife. 

Another issue that contributes to wildlife around Mud Lake and other densely populated parts of the city is that people tend to feed them, said Chris Myles, a conservation officer with the National Capital Commission. 

In his experience, Myles said, when there are conflicts between humans and wild animals, that's almost always what they're about.

"They come to look at us as food sources. So rather than scuttle off, when they see somebody coming up the trail, they may start to associate you with food."

Moodie Dr Traffic Calming: As We Heard It Report

Moodie Dr Traffic Calming: As We Heard It Report

Thank you to those of you that found the time to provide feedback on the proposed permanent traffic calming plans for Moodie Drive. 167 respondents completed the online survey, which was posted online in late 2023. Residents were advised about the survey through Councillor Johnson’s email newsletter, social media platforms, and flyers which were delivered to nearby homes.

The proposed plan includes the installation of 4 speed humps on Moodie Drive between the school site and Anwatin Street. Additional measures between the school and West Hunt Club Road include the relocation of the speed display board (further south toward West Hunt Club) and dashed pavement markings which are intended to provide a visual cue for drivers to decelerate prior to entering the 40km/h zone and approaching the first speed hump when travelling northbound. 

Overall, 63% of residents responded that they were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with the plan as proposed. There was strong support from residents living on Moodie Drive, with 72% indicating that they are very comfortable with the proposed plan. Staff have compiled the survey findings into an ‘As We Heard It’ Report (link below). 

I’m pleased to announce that the permanent traffic calming project on Moodie Drive will proceed, with construction taking place as early as summer 2024. We will continue to share updates about the construction timeline as they become available.

Moodie Dr Traffic Calming: As We Heard It Report

Centrepointe Drive traffic calming Q&A

Centrepointe Drive traffic calming Q&A

On February 28, 2024, over 100 Centrepointe-area residents took part in an online meeting about the upcoming Centrepointe Traffic Calming plan.

There were many questions and issues raised during the meeting. City engineers have written answers to your questions. You will find the full Q and A below.

Please remember that the City of Ottawa is hosting an online consultation for the Centrepointe Drive Area Traffic Management study via a survey, available until Saturday, March 23, 2024:

Centrepointe Drive Traffic Calming Survey

If you have any further questions or comments, please email Project Manager Wook Kang at [email protected].

Centrepointe Drive Traffic Calming Q&A

Summary of August 10 2023 flooding in College Ward

August 10, 2023 produced an average of 60 mm of rain throughout the city over a period of 5 hours, with a peak recorded volume of 107 mm. At peak, 190mm/hour was falling. Due to the nature of the storm (high peak intensity and high volume), sanitary sewers, storm sewers and overland drainage systems were all affected.

In College Ward, several homes were flooded. This report looks at the reasons why and how flooding can be prevented in future.

Staff say that they are currently initiating a drainage study in the City View/Crestview area to control flow into the storm sewer system thereby minimizing the risk of sewer surcharge.  This study should be completed by early summer. They are also undertaking computer simulations of the of the August 10th, 2023 event in the Meadowlands Area using sewer hydraulic models to determine if additional tweaks to the infrastructure can be done to further reduce the risk of flooding.

SUMMARY REPORT

CBC: Councillors eye solution to keep community associations insured

CBC: Councillors eye solution to keep community associations insured

"I thought it was fairly inappropriate for city staff to have had two years of deliberations, ostensibly with community groups, and to come back with a report this past winter that says we're going to kill the program," said College ward Coun. Laine Johnson.

Full story: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/community-association-insurance-cost-ottawa-change-plan-1.7105303

Year One in Review:  A Progress Report for College Ward Residents

Year One in Review: A Progress Report for College Ward Residents

Click here to read the Progress Report

Dear Neighbours,

When I was campaigning to be your City Councillor for College Ward, I said I’d address the issues that you said were important to you. Here’s a list of those promises and an update on what we have accomplished so far.

I believe in accountability and transparency. I hope this Progress Report lets you know what we’ve done, what’s underway, and what we still need to tackle.

Warm regards,
Laine

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