Background on 2012 Marine Exclusion Zone (MEZ) Project

Background on 2012 Marine Exclusion Zone Project and Environmental Assessment Report

Toronto (April 10, 2013) – On June 14, 2012, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) hosted a public meeting to discuss the previously-announced proposal to undertake lakefilling under the surface of Lake Ontario just east of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA).

The scope of the proposal was for the placement of fill material in a site of approximately 80-by-100-metres within an area currently designated a Marine Exclusion Zone (MEZ). These zones are in place to prohibit the entry of marine vessels due to their proximity to flight paths. Under the proposal, the lakefill material will remain a half-metre below the lake surface to act as a physical deterrent to boaters, such as is already the case at the west side of the airport where shallow waters naturally exist.

The TPA, owner and operator of BBTCA is building a state of the art pedestrian tunnel that, when completed in mid-2014, will link the popular Airport to the mainland. This project was lauched in March 2012. The excavation of clean fill from the BBTCA pedestrian tunnel presents an opportunity to use materials for this proposed project, however, materials from other construction projects around the waterfront could also be considered.

The MEZ lakefill proposal is a convenient, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way of improving safety, disposing of natural material, reducing truck traffic and enhancing marine habitats. Below are relevant facts associated with the proposal.

Questions and Answers:

Is this MEZ project really a plan to extend BBTCA runways?

No. There is no plan to extend the runway at BBTCA. The TPA has operated the BBTCA based upon the terms of the 1983 Tripartite Agreement for the past 30 years, and will continue to do so. The TPA will not consider any change of use to the airport until a determination is first made by the elected representatives on Toronto City Council regarding Porter's proposed changes to the 1983 Tripartite Agreement. The airport operates under the oversight of the Tripartite Agreement, as executed between the City of Toronto, the federal government and the TPA.

Furthermore, this proposal will not create new land surface. The lakefill is designed to top off at 0.5 metres below the lake surface.

Why did you put forward this proposal?

The purpose of the TPA's May 2012 Marine Exclusion Zone lakefill project is to bolster the safety and utility of the eastern MEZ by better deterring boat incursions at the east end of the airport. Enhancing safety within the MEZ with a physical deterrent – in addition to a series of existing “Keep Out” buoys – has been an objective of the TPA for several years. We also have an opportunity to enhance marine wildlife habitats.

Furthermore, we have heard residents' concerns about the noise and congestion associated with the construction of the BBTCA pedestrian tunnel, especially large construction vehicles using Eireann Quay. With the BBTCA tunnel project underway, the lakefill proposal is an opportunity to reduce the traffic of construction vehicles for the benefit of our neighbours.

Isn't this just a part of the BBTCA tunnel project?

This is not part of the tunnel project, which will proceed regardless. This proposal was designed to further improve the safe use and operation of the BBTCA by improving the MEZ. If material from the separate tunnel project is available for use, it will be used, particularly if that would provide even further benefits to the environment and local residents.

Was an Environmental Assessment conducted?

While the proposal, under 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, did not require an Environmental Assessment (EA), the TPA wanted to be thorough in examining all aspects this proposal and conducted a full Environmental Assessment. The EA considered effects, both in the construction and over time, on the environment, the significance of such effects, public comments, and measures to mitigate adverse effects.

A Notice of Commencement of an Environmental Assessment for this proposal was posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's website on May 16, 2012. As a further courtesy, the TPA also reached out to local waterfront city councilors' offices and city administration staff in May last year to preview the project's benefits.

What was the result of the Environmental Assessment?

The environmental assessment of the proposed lakefill project near the east end of the BBTCA reviewed the potential impacts of the project on the environment during construction and operation periods. The assessment concluded that any direct or cumulative effects of the project would not result in significant adverse effects on the environment.

The environmental assessment did recommend some mitigation measures and monitoring activities to minimize the potential minor, localized and short-term project construction related nuisance effects such as temporary turbidity in the water.

A copy of the assessment is posted on the TPA website at:

Are there any environmental benefits to the MEZ lakefill proposal?

Consultations with aquatic habitat stakeholders have indicated the proposal could create new fish habitats to enhance the marine ecosystem of Toronto Harbour.

Furthermore, lakefill is a common and environmentally friendly way to relocate natural materials from construction sites. The Leslie Street Spit and Tommy Thompson Park consist almost entirely of materials from elsewhere.

The TPA is currently contributing and building a new $1.0 million fish habitat at Tommy Thompson Park. The TPA also manages the transport and distribution of lakefill at this park. The TPA has extensive experience with lakefill projects and marine protection.

Finally, the proposal includes implementing several environmental protection measures, such as sedimentation barriers to prevent possible adverse effects to underwater habitats during the lakefill relocation process.

Do you plan to further consult with the community?

In addition to the June 14, 2012 public information meeting hosted by the TPA, there will be additional public communications to update the community on the EA's progress and other relevant issues. The TPA has also consulted with a wide variety of other stakeholders about the proposal, including the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, Nav Canada, Environment Canada, the City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto, Aquatic Habitat Toronto, local First Nations, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Proposed Lakefill

Proposed lakefill boundaries: the lakefill is proposed to extend eastward from the edge of dockwall into the
Marine Exclusion Zone approximately 88 metres

About the Toronto Port Authority (

The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, the Port of Toronto (Terminals 51 and 52), and Toronto's Outer Harbour Marina. In addition to moving more than two million passengers through the airport in 2012, the Port Authority provides transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port, and owns and operates Toronto's largest freshwater marina. The Toronto Port Authority was incorporated on June 8, 1999 as a business enterprise under the Canada Marine Act as the successor to the Toronto Harbour Commissioners.

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Media Contact: Pamela McDonald, Director, Communications and Public Affairs (416) 863-2028 or (647) 405-8185 (mobile),