Guelph/Eramosa township updates relationship with GRCA

BRUCEDALE – Guelph/Eramosa has approved changes to how conservation and watershed management is handled in the township. 

On Nov. 6, council approved a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) incorporating changes the province made to Ontario’s Conservation Authority Act. 

In December 2020, Bill 229 – Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 defined which programs and services the province requires of conservation authorities. 

The authorities are community-based watershed management agencies. According to Conservation Ontario, the mandate of all 36 authorities in Ontario is to “undertake watershed-based programs to  protect people and property from flooding, and other natural hazards, and to conserve natural resources for economic, social, and environmental benefits.” 

The Conservation Authority Act amendments require authorities “to focus on and deliver their core mandates,” states a Nov. 6 report to council from Guelph/Eramosa risk management official Kyle Davis. 

The amendments  limit authorities’ roles by separating programs and services into three categories: 

– Category 1, provincially mandated programs and services that centre natural hazard protection and managing CA owned lands; 

– Category 2, programs and services delivered on behalf of municipalities including conservation services and watershed sciences; and 

– Category 3, programs and services a conservation authority offers, including restoration of natural areas and soil and water conservation. 

Programs and services in Category 1 are covered by municipal levy and provincial funding and do not require a MOU or cost-apportioning agreement. 

After Jan. 1, all Category 2 and 3 programs and services must involve a MOU, a cost-apportioning agreement, or be funded through self-generated conservation authority revenue.

“So at the end of the day, municipalities have a lot more control over what might go into the levy that’s not mandatory,” said Mayor Chris White, and there will be “a lot more eyes on the budget.” 

The MOU between Guelph/Eramosa and the GRCA does not include anything from Category 3 because programs and services in this category will be funded from revenue generated by the GRCA. 

The MOU highlights Category 2 programs and services that will be covered by the township levy as part of the regular budget process. 

This includes support for watershed services, planning and monitoring, and services related to the County of Wellington’s Rural Water Quality Program. 

The cost to continue with Category 2 services in 2024 will be $14,285. This is included in the current GRCA levy – not an additional cost for the 2024 budget. 

The total 2024 levy allocation for Category 1 and 2 services will be equivalent to the 2023 levy – $182,089, plus a cost of living adjustment. 

So for Guelph/Eramosa, things will essentially carry on as they are, White said.

Moving forward, the GRCA will continue providing proposed Category 1 and 2 allocations to the township before or during the GRCA annual budget process. 

The MOU will be in place until Nov. 6, 2028. 

With roots in the 1930s, the GRCA is the oldest water management agency in Canada, and one of the oldest in the world.