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From dirt to driveways

Protecting the environment and preventing flooding in Oshawa's north end

While it currently sits as an empty field, the future Northwoods Business Park, which will sit near the border between Oshawa and Whitby, is a potential flood risk thanks to its placement along the Oshawa and Goodman creeks. However, city staff are working on a plan to prevent the upcoming business hub from having a soggy future.

While it currently sits as an empty field, the future Northwoods Business Park, which will sit near the border between Oshawa and Whitby, is a potential flood risk thanks to its placement along the Oshawa and Goodman creeks. However, city staff are working on a plan to prevent the upcoming business hub from having a soggy future.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

For now, it is mostly empty fields. However, when it comes time for the Northwoods Business Park (NBP) to evolve into one of Oshawa’s newest industrial hubs, things will change, and it will take a lot of work to ensure those changes are for the better.

Generally encompassing the area between Oshawa Creek and the Whitby-Oshawa boundary, and Taunton Road West and Highway 407, the future 262-acre business park includes watersheds for both Oshawa and Goodman Creek, making stormwater management a top of mind priority for the city.

And while the land is still a few bureaucratic steps away from development, as well as the nearby expansion of Conlin Road and the Region of Durham’s work installing sewers and watermains along Thornton Road West, the NBP is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Staffers, with the help of consultants, recently completed a stormwater management plan for the area to study and plan for the impacts of paving over such large sections of grassy field. The study was approved in 2014 and came in on the $100,000 budget.

“The study confirmed that future industrial development within the NBP will have various degrees of impact on both the Oshawa Creek and Goodman Creek Watersheds,” reads the final report.

In particular, flood risk, erosion in creek channels and water budget would increase, while, if left untreated, the surface water quality would decrease as more road salt and other contaminants reach the water system.

The flooding risks

And it is no insignificant risk either – the study found that heavy rains could increase the flows in Goodman Creek by as much as 350 to 400 per cent.

“Property owners residing in the downstream areas would experience more frequent flooding in their lands if no flood storage control is provided,” the report reads.

Goodman would not be the only watershed impacted as of the 511 hectares of drainage area from the NBP, only 250 of that drains into the headwaters of Goodman Creek. The remaining drainage flows into the Oshawa Creek watershed and portions of the Pringle Creek watershed in Whitby.

These increased flows, which original estimates place at an increase of 25 to 36 per cent of current levels, would also negatively impact the creek channels as increased flows, if left unmitigated, can cause increased erosion causing issues with stability along the riverbanks, the report states.

“(This) could cause significant impacts to watercourses , groundwater aquifers and other nature features because the surface water pollutants loadings and downstream channel erosion/stability increases.”

The main contaminants are expected to be from road salt, heavy metals and hydrocarbons, which can be harmful to plants, animals and people if left untreated.

The management plan

The future business park, which is slated for light industrial and limited commercial uses, poses a few issues when it comes to stormwater management. With different tenants and landowners, it becomes an issue of responsibility.

For that reason, Patrick Lee, the city’s water resources manager, explains the city has developed a minimum standard for each new tenant within the NBP, which lay out a base level of control for managing water levels and runoff.

“If everybody follows that plan, everybody does a little bit, the cumulative impact will help us to protect the environment…but also preventing flooding and erosion downstream,” Lee says.

The city will also encourage property owners to implement higher levels of control by using “innovative technologies” if they wish to do so.

Typically, developments on large portions of land, such as residential subdivisions, implement a large stormwater management device, or facility, for example a stormwater management pond. However, due to the fragmented ownership within the NBP, it makes this type of plan difficult.

Another challenge is the stages of the future growth.

“This is such a big area we have a timing problem,” Lee explains, noting that different sites will come online sooner than others, making a large scale plan impossible.

“That’s the reason why this tool will make sure that people have a consistent approach,” he says.

The plan also includes several future tasks for the city downstream of the NBP, including culvert upgrades on Taunton Road West, Rossland Road West and Bermuda Avenue (which was approved for this year), and the construction of a flood conveyance channel inside the park.

No estimates were included for future costs associated with this, but the report will be used during future budget considerations.

Future development

As of now, the site of the NBP still needs to undergo changes to the city’s zoning in order to have it pre-zoned to prevent developers from having to stumble through the costly rezoning process.

For Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services the stormwater management plan was one of the “building blocks” in order to advance the development.

“It’s absolutely huge,” he says.

However, there is still a long way to go, and one massive hurdle to overcome; that being having services run to the area. Of Oshawa’s approximately 1,000 acres of vacant industrial land, only 215 are pre-zoned and fully serviced.

“(The) region needs to be on board to service these future employment areas across the region in order to promote job creation and industrial and commercial assessment” Ralph says.