Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan: governance

Volunteers planting native cattails.

Photo: Dave Heidebrecht, Bay Area Restoration Council.

Other Project Contributors/Bay Area Implementation Team Members: ArcelorMittal Dofasco, Bay Area Restoration Council, City of Burlington, City of Hamilton, Conservation Halton, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Green Venture, Halton Region, Hamilton Conservation Authority, Hamilton Halton Home Builder’s Association, Hamilton Port Authority, Hamilton Waterfront Trust, McMaster University, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Royal Botanical Gardens, and U.S. Steel Canada.

A high level of public involvement and community support is behind the broad cooperative effort to clean up Hamilton Harbour.

The Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern has been subject to the impacts of intensive industrial and urban development around its shores for many years. The Area covers about 500 kilometres2 and includes the 2,150-hectare harbour and bay located at the western end of Lake Ontario, the Cootes Paradise wetland, and the surrounding watershed.

Given the scope of the cleanup challenges in Hamilton Harbour, as well as the many government, community and industry interests involved, all parties recognized early on the important role to be played by the community if environmental cleanup and restoration efforts are to succeed. In 1992, the Area of Concern’s Remedial Action Plan report to the federal and provincial governments recommended a governance model based on collaboration. The governments agreed, and the implementation of the action plan began with the establishment of two key groups:

·the Bay Area Implementation Team (BAIT), made up of government, industry and community partners, is responsible for implementing the wide-ranging remedial actions in the Area of Concern; and,

·the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC), a community non-profit organization representing the public interest in the restoration of Hamilton Harbour and its watershed, is responsible for promoting the Remedial Action Plan, monitoring and assessing progress, and reporting on results.

The Remedial Action Plan Office is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the City of Hamilton, the City of Burlington and Halton Region. The Office reports to the BAIT, coordinates day-to-day implementation of remedial measures, and works closely with the BARC to report on progress. 

Strong community support for the Remedial Action Plan is the direct result of the active role of the BARC. The Council encourages community action by offering school programs, volunteer planting events, and community workshops. It organizes an annual fundraiser, A Winter Evening by the Bay, with allproceeds supporting BARC’s child and youth environmental education and leadership programming across the watershed. The BARC also maintains a popular website that is the key information hub for the Remedial Action Plan.  

Significant progress has been made in addressing the environmental concerns in Hamilton Harbour. Key achievements include: upgrades to wastewater treatment plants; restoration of Windermere Basin, a 25-hectare plot of reclaimed industrial land; improved public access to the harbour shoreline; and commencement of the Randle Reef sediment remediation project in the industrial corner of the harbour, which will contain and clean up the most contaminated site in the Canadian Great Lakes.

The Bay Area Implementation Team and Bay Area Restoration will continue to play a role in addressing the important challenges that remain, including: ongoing water quality concerns arising from the high volumes of treated wastewater entering the harbour; algae blooms from the runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients; and the impacts of invasive species, such as carp.

For more information on the Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern, please visit: Bay Area Restoration Council.


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