407 ETR Extension - A step in the wrong direction

CLICK HERE for a slide show of pictures taken by Jayden along the path of the West Link (Hwy 407 to 401 just east of Lakeridge Rd.)
This article was contributed by Jayden Rae who is a Whitby high school student and the President of the Whitby Environmental Youth Alliance.
 
If you live in Durham Region, you have surely driven past the destruction resulting from the 407 ETR East Extension project and felt a sadness come over you. Hundreds, thousands, of trees including Butternut Trees that are considered an endangered species, are being chopped down for the construction of the West Link alone. However, this is just one of the impacts of this project and just a few other concerns include; 
  • The loss of healthy habitats that are abundant of life including species included under the endangered species act such as; Trumpeter Swans, Blanding’s Turtles, Barn Swallows and Redside Dace. The North Link in particular is destroying some of Whitby’s  last woodlots which have already experienced a steep decline due to urban sprawl. 
  • The West Link crosses over 7 waterways and the full 407 extension traverses almost a hundred more. These wetlands are the base of Durham’s ecosystems that feed Lake Ontario, act as filters for our water, reduce pollution and are vital to spawning fish. I have personally noticed that the waterways are not being properly considered in the construction process as fallen trees are interfering with the flow of water and large machines are spewing debris into the water. 
  • The environmental assessment was conducted in 2007 but the majority of construction will not begin until 2015. This is an eight year gap and an entire ecosystem can shift during this time. 
People live in Durham Region because they want to live a quieter life outside of the hustle and bustle of Toronto. This highway is simply bringing the city to our community which really destroys the meaning of a suburb. The 407 ETR will not improve congestion on the whole, the billions of dollars required for construction will simply pull away investments into a sustainable public transit system. 
 
While the project may bring some economic benefits, it is important to recognize that healthy ecosystems provide us with services valued in the millions of dollars, such as water and air filtration, erosion mitigation and storm water management. However, the beauty of nature cannot be put into a monetary number and it’s value in the eyes of Ontario's is held in its importance in each of our lives. If we continue to degrade the important natural spaces in our community through damaging construction projects, the effects are unpredictable and could be profound.
 
The Whitby Environmental Youth Alliance is running a campaign to raise awareness about this project and would love to hear the thoughts of other community members. We see the approval of this project as a shortsighted decision of the politicians who we rely on to ensure the best future for our generation. We want to bring light to the idea that careless development is not the way forward. Please inform yourself on this project before it is to late to comment. 
 
Visit the Environmental Registry to submit comments on a proposal involving invasive species in the West Link: