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Offsite Development Seeks to Drain the Moraine

A massive proposed development in Fraserville, Peterborough County, has exposed a dangerous loophole in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP); it appears that developments outside of the Moraine’s boundaries can by-pass protection and pipe water from within protected areas of the Moraine to service their water needs.  The Fraserville development would involve an expansion to the OLG Slots Casino at Kawartha Downs, 684 residential units, a new golf course with club house and additional residential units, an entertainment complex, hotel, recreation centre, community centre, big box stores, auto-dealerships, and the list goes on.

It appears that issues with historic contamination have rendered groundwater at the Fraserville site unusable; the Kawartha Downs Casino is already opting to truck in water from the town of Millbrook, 12 kilometres away.  As the site cannot even sustain the water needs of the Casino, developing a new sprawling community at this same location violates any notion of sustainable land-use planning.  However, as the Casino is a vital part of the tax base for the township of Cavan-Monaghan, this massive development is an attempt to justify constructing costly new infrastructure to keep the Casino viable.  Fraserville’s extremely controversial servicing plan involves constructing a 12 kilometre pipeline to the town of Millbrook’s well system, which pulls its water from within the protected area of the Oak Ridges Moraine!

Under the ORMCP, protection for groundwater is triggered when a major development like Fraserville takes place on the Moraine.   However, as this development is outside of the ORMCP Area, no protection is triggered, despite the planned withdrawal of large amounts of groundwater from sensitive and allegedly protected aquifers.


Just as this development has found a way to by-pass our Moraine protection, one would think the Places to Grow plan would preclude such unsustainable planning.  As Ontario’s answer to ongoing urban sprawl, Places to Grow mandates that development be focused within existing urban boundaries, in areas that already have infrastructure in place to support development.  While the Fraserville proposal clearly does not conform with Places to Grow, it is exempted as the applications were submitted just months prior to the growth plan’s enactment.  Local citizens learned this when they inquired about Fraserville to Ontario’s Growth Secretariat; ironically all the Secretariat could say was that they were hoping issues with water would prevent development.  

While Ontario has a reputation for being a province that is particularly developer friendly, there seems to be a growing sense of unrest and anger from the public as unsustainable development continues to over-tax water resources, and greenspace is further reduced and fragmented.  Despite vocal opposition from the public and policies that aim to curb sprawl and foster intensification, the Fraserville/Millbrook development is still on the table, threatening to turn yet another rural area into a sprawling community dominated by big-box stores.  The real kicker is that in this case the monstrosity will be fed with ‘protected’ groundwater from the Oak Ridges Moraine.


The Oak Ridges Moraine forms the headwaters of 65 different rivers and streams; it acts as a giant ‘Brita’ filter for Southern Ontario, cleaning our water and slowly distributing it back into the lakes that most of us pull our drinking water from.  In 2002, the provincial government passed the landmark Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan to ensure the protection of this integral water source.  The Plan emphasizes the significance of maintaining and restoring hydrological integrity, and attempts to foster sustainable use of the Moraine’s water resources.

Understanding of the Moraine’s complex system of underground aquifers is poor; Earthroots 2008 “Ontario’s Water Hazard” case study revealed alarming mismanagement of groundwater on the Moraine.  Not surprisingly, people in the town of Millbrook and surrounding area are very worried about the proposed water diversion for Fraserville; it appears a 300% increase in water use from Millbrooks’ wells is necessary just to service the first of three phases of development, and initial pumping tests already had significant impacts on nearby water features.  If the water table is lowered, it could affect wells in the rural area for miles around.  

While immediate impacts from the Fraserville development are extremely concerning, the precedent it could set is even more worrisome.  If Fraserville establishes the practice of allowing development outside of the Moraine to be serviced with Moraine water, many lands surrounding the Greenbelt with insufficient water for development will quickly become alluring opportunities for developers.  As lands closer to Toronto continue to be gobbled up by sprawl, tapping into the Moraine for offsite development would not only have untold impacts on the Moraine’s hydrology, it would also further limit the Greenbelt’s ability to meet its goals of limiting sprawl and encouraging development within urban areas already serviced by infrastructure.

We need you to lend your voice, and tell our elected officials that draining the Moraine for offsite development is a disastrous idea!

Voice your concerns by using our free fax action centre (click here), or please write your own letter and mail it to:

The Honourable John Gerretsen
Minister of the Environment
12th Floor, 135 St. Clair Ave. W.
Toronto, ON
M4V 1P5
Phone: 416-314-6790
Fax: 416-314-7337

The Honourable Jim Bradley  
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing  17th floor, 777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON
M5G 2E5
Phone: 416-585-7000
Fax: 416-585-6470

Rick Johnson MPP
Queen's Park Office, Room 330, Main Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, ON
M7A 1A4
Phone: 416-325-6553
Fax: 416-325-6640
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or submit  your comments through the premier’s website:

For more information, visit the Speak Out Cavan Monaghan website at; or contact Josh Garfinkel, Earthroots Senior Campaigner, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 416-599-0152 x15.