News & Events

Island Airport Runway Expansion Environmental Assessment

By Ron Mazza, Commodore Queen City Yacht Club
January, 2015


The Council of Commodores were asked to provide a representative to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA) Environmental Assessment (EA) Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC). I volunteered to do this. This is a report to date following the first meeting of that committee on January 15. As the process proceeds further reports will follow.




Why is This Proposed Expansion Important to the Yacht Clubs in Toronto?

Toronto Bay, the Eastern Gap, and Humber Bay have historically been very heavily used by the boating community in Toronto for the past century. There is already significant concern with the impact of the airport in its present configuration. The introduction of large commercial jet aircraft to the Island Airport on a busy flight schedule could have further profound impacts on our enjoyment of these public areas in the form of increased noise and pollution, erratic air currents, and reduced safety. The extension of the runways by 200 meters into Humber Bay and Toronto Bay and the possible expansion of the exclusion zones associated with those runways would further reduce what has historically been a recreational boating resource. The existing exclusion zones were installed without public consultation and entirely eliminated our access to a significant area of what had historically been public waterways.

Solely because of the City of Toronto’s insistence on an Environmental Assessment for this expansion proposal we have this time been given a voice. We should not let this opportunity to influence the outcome, however small, go by.


Toronto Islands panorama"Toronto Islands panorama" by Cmglee - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Island Airport, recently renamed the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA) by the Toronto Port Authority, is governed by a tripartite agreement between the Province, the Federal government, and the City of Toronto. Among other things that agreement specifically forbids commercial jets from using that airport. Any change to that agreement requires unanimous consent of all three parties.

In 2013 Porter Airlines, who are the lead tenant at the Island Airport, and the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), who are the owner and operator of the Island Airport, requested an amendment to the Tripartite Agreement to allow for the use of jet aircraft and a resultant extension of the runway 200 meters at each into Humber Bay to the west and Toronto Bay on the east. Toronto City Council consideration of that proposal in 2013 and 2014 resulted in a request to the Port Authority for more information before this would be considered by the City including an Environmental Assessment (EA).

What’s Happening Now

Toronto-islands"Toronto-islands" by Jan Steffan - Originaly uploaded by User:WnA under the same name in EN:WP. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Port Authority have engaged Swerhun Facilitation to run the Environmental Assessment process. The technical aspects of the EA will be undertaken by AECOM and planningAlliance. As neither the Provincial or Federal governments specifically requires an Environmental Assessment for this work the requirements of those assessments do not apply. Therefore Swerhun Facilitation is undertaking a process they are calling “a study in the form of an Environmental Assessment”. However, the terms of reference of their proposed study exceed the requirements of the Provincial and Federal Assessments and includes the natural, social, and economic environment.


The first part of the process involves consultation with the public and other stakeholders to develop a scope for the EA. The second part will entail information gathering by TPA and their consultants about the potential impacts of the Porter proposal, complete analysis of those impacts within the defined scope and propose potential mitigation measures.

As part of the public consultation process, public meetings have been held and more are planned on January 24 (drop in session in Rm 714 of the South Building of the Metro Convention Centre) and January 26 (Feedback workshop in Rm 108 of the North Building of the Metro Convention Centre). In addition a Stakeholders group has been formed which is made up of umbrella organizations rather than individuals or single organizations. As a result individual yacht clubs are not included. But the boating community is represented by two broader interest groups, The Toronto Boaters Alliance, represented by Ron Jenkins, and the Council of Commodores, represented by Ron Mazza, Commodore of Queen City Yacht Club. The first Stake Holders meeting was held on January 15, 2015 at a room in the Central YMCA. Participating in this EA process in no way implies support for or against the TPA, the EA scope, or the eventual results.

How the EA works

toronto-panorama"Toronto skyline toronto islands b" by chensiyuan - chensiyuan. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

The Environmental Assessment will be a comparative process. Firstly it will study the present condition at the airport. Then it will look at the projected future conditions under the present Tripartite Agreement (accounting for mitigation) and the projected cumulative net effects and assessment of the impacts, of accidents, and malfunctions, and then undertake a community well-being assessment. This will form the “Baseline”. It will then look at the projected future conditions with jets and runway extension (accounting for mitigation) and the projected cumulative net effects and assessment of the impacts, of accidents, and malfunctions and then resultant community well-being assessment. This will form the “Proposal”. The environmental assessment will be based on a comparison of the “Proposal” with the “Baseline”. It appears that there will be no objective standards of acceptability applied to either the “Baseline” or the “Proposal”. Only a comparison of one to the other.

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