On December 13, Greater Sudbury Council approved the Transportation Master Plan (TMP), therefore giving staff permission to post a Notice of Completion for the plan. This opens a final 30-day comment period that is mandated by the Province of Ontario’s Environmental Assessment process.
If you’re confused with what the Notice of Completion means, read on!
Environmental Assessment Process
The planning and design of municipal infrastructure projects must meet the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act, which is a provincially legislated document that governs all public undertakings that have the potential to affect the environment. The process is administered by the Minister of the Environment.
In general, the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (Class EA) process categorizes proposed municipal projects according to their anticipated environmental impact, and calls for increasingly stringent review requirements as the magnitude of the anticipated environmental impact increases. Projects are categorized under various “Schedules”:
- Schedule A: are limited in scale and are anticipated to have a negligible environmental effect. These projects include the majority of municipal maintenance and operational activities, such as repairing water main breaks, cleaning sanitary sewers, or adding traffic control signals to an intersection. Schedule ‘A’ projects are pre-approved, and may proceed to implementation without following the full Municipal Class EA process.
- Schedule A+: are also limited in scale, but they have a somewhat broader scale than Schedule ‘A’ projects. Schedule ‘A+’ projects are anticipated to have a minimal environmental impact; therefore, they are also pre-approved and may proceed to implementation without following the full Municipal Class EA process. Some examples of Schedule ‘A+’ projects are refurbishing a water supply plant, installing a sewer within an existing road allowance, and adding turning lanes to an intersection.
- Schedule B: have the potential for some adverse environmental impacts, therefore, the proponent is required to proceed through a screening process. This includes consultation with all parties that may potentially be affected by the project to ensure that they are aware of the project and that any concerns are suitably addressed. If there are no outstanding concerns, then the project may proceed to implementation. Schedule ‘B’ projects generally involve minor modifications to existing facilities, such as increasing the depth of a municipal well, retiring a water pollution control plant, or constructing a minor expansion to a road.
- Schedule C: the potential for significant environmental effects, and are required to follow the full planning and design proce
ss specified under the Municipal Class EA. Schedule ‘C’ projects require the compilation of all relevant information into a clear and easily understood report called an “Environmental Study Report” (ESR), which must be made available for review by the public and regulatory review agencies. Schedule ‘C’ projects generally involve the construction of new facilities or major modifications to existing facilities, such as constructing a new water treatment plant, expanding an existing water pollution control plant beyond its rated capacity, or significantly widening an existing road.
The required phases include:
- Phase 1 – Identify the problem, deficiency or opportunity, and develop a clear statement of the issues that are to be addressed.
- Phase 2 – Identify the reasonable alternative solutions that could be implemented to address the issues. Establish the preferred solution based on an assessment of the environmental impact, including consideration of stakeholder input.
- Phase 3 – Identify alternative methods of implementing the preferred solution. Establish the preferred method based on an assessment of the environmental impact, including consideration of stakeholder input.
- Phase 4 – Compile all relevant study information, including study rational, environmental considerations, consultation process and recommendations into a clear and easily understood report entitled an “Environmental Study Report” (ESR), and make the document available for review by interested or affected parties.
- Phase 5 – Implement the preferred method of addressing the issues, including completion of contract documents and construction of any recommended works. Monitor implementation for adherence to environmental provisions and commitments, and where dictated monitor the operation of completed facilities.
Occasionally, a project may be planned under the Municipal Class EA process where members of the general public, interest groups, regulatory review agencies or municipalities do not believe that their concerns have been adequately addressed. Under the Municipal Class EA process, the opportunity exists for a person or party with unresolved concerns at the conclusion of the planning process to request that the Ontario Minister of the Environment review the status of the project. The Minister will consider the request and make one of the following decisions, with the Minister’s decision being final:
- Deny the request, stating the reason for the decision
- Deny the request with conditions, such as requiring that the proponent prepare an annual report on the environmental impact of the project
- Refer the matter to mediation, whereby one or more appointed persons will endeavour to resolve the concern
- Issue what is referred to as a “Part II Order”, which requires that the proponent comply with Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act and undertake the planning and design as an “Individual Environmental Assessment”. An Individual Environmental Assessment requires that the proponent define a planning and design process specifically for the proposed project, and submit it to the Minister of the Environment for approval prior to carrying out the Environmental Assessment.
The EA process and Transportation Master Plans
The Municipal Engineers Association’s Class Environmental Assessment allows municipalities to plan, design, construct, maintain, rehabilitate, and/or retire municipal road, water, wastewater and transit projects without having to obtain project-specific approval under the Environmental Assessment Act provided that the Class Environmental Assessment process is followed.
Master Plans are long range plans which integrate infrastructure requirements for existing and future land use with environmental assessment planning principles. These plans examine an infrastructure system(s) or group of related projects in order to outline a framework for planning for subsequent projects and/or developments. When preparing a Master Plan the principals of the Municipal Class EA process are applied, including the requirement that an effective stakeholder consultation program be undertaken. At a minimum, a Master Plan addresses Phases 1 and 2 of the Municipal Class EA process.
Master planning provides the municipality with a broad framework through which the need and justification for specific projects can be established and the environmental assessment process can be satisfied.
The individual projects recommended under a Master Plan may be categorized as Schedule ‘A’, Schedule ‘B’ or Schedule ‘C’ under the Municipal Class EA process. At the time that the individual projects included in the Master Plan are to be implemented, they are subject to the requirements of the Municipal Class EA process. For Schedule ‘B’ and Schedule ‘C’ projects identified within a Master Plan, the work undertaken during the development of the Master Plan can be used in support of the requirements of Phases 1 and 2 of the Municipal Class EA.
For example, if an individual project is to be implemented and it is a Schedule ‘C’ project under the Municipal Class EA process, the work undertaken during the development of the Master Plan can be used in support of the requirements of Phases 1 and 2 of the Municipal Class EA. It would be necessary to fulfil the additional requirements of Phases 3 and 4 in order to consider the project specific issues that were beyond the scope of the Master Planning process. Similarly, for Schedule ‘B’ projects it would be necessary to fulfil the consultation and documentation requirements.
A Master Plan itself cannot be ordered to comply with Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA), also known as a “Part II Order”. However, the individual projects included in the Master Plan are subject to the requirements of the Municipal Class EA process at the time that they are to be implemented, therefore, a request for a “Part II Order” can be made for individual projects at that time under the Municipal Class EA process.