The City and its consultant team need to be able to conduct field studies to gather information on the natural features and functions occurring in the study area. Lands in public ownership (e.g., city properties, public road allowances, Crown lands, etc.) are accessed during these field studies, but the majority of lands within a subwatershed are privately owned.
While it is not necessary to have access to every property within the subwatershed, it is essential to be able to obtain on-site data from at least some privately owned lands in order to gain a more complete understanding of the existing conditions of the terrestrial (woodlands, wetlands) or watercourse of interest. Therefore, when the City is preparing to conduct a subwatershed study, letters are mailed to property owners within the study area requesting permission to access their lands.
The field study methods are primarily limited to visual observations made on foot. No heavy equipment or motorised vehicles will be used. Study team members’ personal vehicle(s) will be parked at the side of the road or in a location approved by the landowner. Photographs may be taken of various natural features or of the general landscape. Due to the broad nature of subwatershed studies, there may be several specialised teams working in the area (for example, a terrestrial team, an aquatic habitat/fisheries team, and a geomorphology team).
The terrestrial field study team looks at the land-based features such as woods, wetlands and meadows. They map the plant communities, list the plant and animal species seen (or heard, in the case of birds and frogs) and identify the types of wildlife habitat found. They also look at the soils as part of the plant community description. Some samples of plants may be collected to confirm the species identification. More than one visit to a property may be required to identify some species (e.g., spring visit to record breeding birds on the property, later spring/summer visit to examine plants).
The aquatic habitat/fisheries team looks at the creeks, drains and ditches in the study area to determine which ones provide habitat for fish and other aquatic life. They record plant species observations and capture fish and aquatic invertebrates (e.g., insects and snails) for identification. A device known as an electrofisher, which produces a localised electrical shock to temporarily stun fish so that they can be more easily caught, may be used. Water depth, width, and amount of cover provided by rocks, logs, overhanging trees, etc., are also recorded.
The geomorphology team looks at the physical form and condition of the creeks, drains and ditches. They measure channel width, bank slope, water depth, rate of water flow, etc., and determine how well the watercourses are functioning in terms of conveying water and maintaining bank stability.
Subwatershed studies do not restrict current land uses within the study area. The recommendations made may have implications for future changes in land use, particularly in terms of how future developments are designed and built.
During the development of the subwatershed plan, landowners and other members of the community will be encouraged to participate in the identification of priorities and goals for the subwatershed area at public open houses and other events. Typical outcomes of subwatershed plans in the City of Ottawa include recommendations on:
- Appropriate Best Management Practices which could be adopted to reduce environmental impacts from ongoing and future activities
- Suitable areas for community-based ecological restoration or enhancement projects
- Design standards and study requirements for future development proposals in certain areas of the subwatershed
- Potentially sensitive areas which should be subjected to additional specific studies if development is proposed in the future (e.g., environmental impact statements)
- Key environmental features and functions which should be preserved through the use of development setbacks and/or protective designations
If required, future amendments to the Official Plan or zoning by-laws will be done through a public process (including notification of affected landowners, public meeting, and consideration by Environment Committee and Council for approval).
What if there are endangered species on my property?
Typically, protection measures for significant plant and animal species are developed and applied during the development application process and include designing around key habitat areas, establishing setbacks, etc. It is unlikely that any species found would require significant changes to ongoing land use practices.
Landowners have the right to refuse access to their lands; however, the study will still include lands where access was denied. Recommendations for these lands will be made based on information available from other sources, such as aerial photography and observations made by the study team from the roadsides, rather than on actual on-site data. Detailed information, similar to that being gathered by the subwatershed study team, may be required from these landowners if they propose to develop their lands in the future.
The City seeks to work in partnership with the public within the study area to collect information and to develop recommendations for management planning, and has therefore established a comprehensive public consultation program for engaging stakeholders. A variety of different tools and techniques are used to deliver the public consultation program associated with on-going subwatershed studies:
- Distribution of newsletters to all subwatershed residents
- Collection of input through a community survey
- Open houses advertised in the local community newspapers
- Contacting landowners who have natural features on their property of interest to the study, requesting permission to access their lands. For those landowners who grant permission, the City provides information about the natural feature(s) found on their property.
- Placing the draft and final study reports on display for public viewing at the local branch(es) of the City’s Public Library
As an interested member of the public, your participation is encouraged. Here are a few ways you can share your ideas:
- Attend Open Houses and Workshops - Open houses and workshops will be held through phases II-IV of the study process. Dates and locations will be advertised in local community newspapers and notices sent to the study mailing list.
- Complete a comment sheet - The City provides comment sheets at all open houses. Please complete a comment sheet so that your input, comments and concerns can be considered.
- Stewardship - The act of taking responsibility for the well-being of the environment will be one of the main vehicles for implementing the recommendations coming out of the subwatershed plan.
- Join the city’s mailing list - You will receive future newsletters and notices of open houses and events.
- Keep informed by visiting this site.