Innisfil Drain Winding Through Fields
Innisfil Drain Winding Through Fields

South Innisfil Creek Drain

Drainage Engineering Services

Designing an ecological municipal drainage system that is a Drain Done Differently.



Town of Innisfil


Innisfil, Ontario

Key Team Members

Chris Pfohl, C.E.T., EP, CAN-CISEC

Innisfil Drain Winding Through Fields

Project Story

The South Innisfil Creek Drain (SICD) is a Municipal Drain established by the Town of Innisfil (Town) through the authority of a by-law created under the Drainage Act (Act). This project presented several challenges that Burnside saw as opportunities to design an ecological drainage system that can be considered a Drain Done Differently.

Please refer to our Municipal Drainage Services page and the Ontario Government’s Municipal Drains page for more details on Municipal Drains, the Drainage Act, and how they relate to this project.

The SICD was first established in 1903. In the 1950s, several branches were added to the system and improvements were also made to the main drain. The SICD is currently being improved through a Municipal by-law adopting a Report authored by Burnside, a copy of which can be found here.

The SICD (see map) has a contributing watershed of over 80 square kilometres that features about 900 properties and serves lands and roads in the southwest portion of the Town, as well as in the northern portion of Bradford West Gwillimbury. The outlet for the 10 km SICD Main Drain is a natural watercourse known as Innisfil Creek – a 44 km tributary of the Nottawasaga River – which enters the Nottawasaga River near Alliston about 80 km from its final outlet into Nottawasaga Bay at Wasaga Beach. Innisfil Creek is the outlet for almost 150 km of Municipal Drains and has a catchment area of approximately 480 square kilometres.

Important challenges and opportunities for the SICD project included:

  • Flooding: Past flooding events caused almost $1M in damages to properties and resulted in legal challenges. One of the outcomes of the legal challenges was an order for the Town to make improvements to the SICD that would address the flooding concerns of the property owners in the affected area.
  • Regulatory Approvals: The proposed improvements had the potential to impact various environmental and social resources. Therefore, before physical changes to the SICD could be made, approvals were required from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA), the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
  • Highway 400: The existing crossing was too small and too high where the SICD passes under Highway 400, limiting flow capacity and acting as a barrier to fish passage. A major component of the project was to coordinate improvements (i.e., lowering and enlarging) to this crossing under Highway 400.
  • Appeals: The Act process provides property owners with various rights of appeal. There were 25 appeals on assessments filed to the municipal Court of Revision and a further seven appeals filed with the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.

The SICD is considered to be a “Drain Done Differently” for the following important reasons:

  • Public Liaison Committee (PLC): A relatively unique aspect of this project was the establishment of a PLC, comprised of representatives of the Town, the Agencies, Burnside, and property owners affected by the SICD. The purpose of the PLC was to identify and address issues as quickly as possible.
  • Public Information Centre (PIC): Prior to filing the Engineer’s Report, all potentially affected landowners and Utility Companies within the watershed were invited to attend a PIC. The Open House format of the PIC allowed all stakeholders to receive an update on the project status and offered them an opportunity to ask questions and provide input.
  • Ecological Enhancements and Improvements: A significant component of the SICD project is the design and implementation of extensive ecological enhancements and improvements, as summarized in the following bulletins:
  • Baseline eDNA: Precision Biomonitoring Inc. (now part of NatureMetrics & SQI Diagnostics) was engaged to conduct and establish complete baseline eDNA testing at strategic locations along the 10 km Main Drain, believed to be the first time this technology was used as part of a Municipal Drain project. This technique identifies the species found in the surrounding environment from the DNA in the cellular material shed by organisms and allows for testing to be realized without having to attempt to visually observe each species present and/or sample the actual organism/species itself. It is hoped that this testing will provide better quality data to support the five-year monitoring program required by DFO.
  • Monitoring and Reporting: In addition to requirements from DFO, there will also be ongoing monitoring and reporting in regard to various aquatic and terrestrial species.
  • Hydrology and Hydraulics Reports: The NVCA was actively engaged in the project, including reviewing and providing feedback on the Hydrology and Hydraulics Reports. They also reviewed the SICD design, specifically the geometry of the two-stage design and proposed Main Drain cross-section.

OSPE Land Drainage Committee



Innisfil Drain Winding Through Fields
Chris Pfohl Headshot

Chris Pfohl, C.E.T., EP, CAN-CISEC

Senior Aquatic Ecologist

Project Contact

We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions or require assistance.