More watershed risk from thunderstorms than spring runoff

Conservation Authorities exist because muni­cipalities realized that they could not work in isolation dealing with watershed issues according to Maitland Valley Conservation Authority general manager Phil Beard,
He was at Minto council re­cently to explain the levy in­crease to councillors.
The MVCA is requesting an additional $74,724 from its member municipalities this year. Beard explained the MVCA, like many of Ontario’s conservation authorities, came into existence in the 1950s as municipalities came to realize each one could not work alone to deal with watershed issues.
That reason is as valid today as it was then, Beard said.
And many of the original missions are as important today, as when the authority was created, such as providing leadership in wat­er, forest and soil quality along the watershed.
Beard added that in 2007, flood protection and safety con­tinued to be one of the MVCA’s highest priorities. But, global weather is making its impact on local weather conditions. Although the MVCA operates a flood warning system, Beard said thunderstorms are becoming more isolated in the Maitland Valley region.
He cited an incident where 10 inches of water fell in the Molesworth area, while a half hour away, rainfall was only a few inches.
“There is more chance now of watersheds being adversely affected by isolated thunderstorms than by spring runoffs,” he said.
He noted the MVCA continues to work with municipalities on flood emergency planning as he cited last year’s exercise in Harriston –  considered to be the most flood prone communities in the entire water­shed.
Beard again went back to the issue of the MVCA dealing with the impact of a changing climate. Locally, the climate is becoming dryer with more intense thunderstorms and faster spring runoffs.  Those two factors can leader to faster soil erosion.
He said the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority provides a wide range of conservation services for watershed residents and municipalities in­cluding:
Watershed stewardship
– Planning advisory services for municipalities and counties.
– Monitoring and reporting on the health of rivers and forests across the watershed.
– Providing technical advice and information to municipalities and landowners on drain­age projects.
– Mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS) services.
– Maitland Watershed Part­nerships – the MVCA is working with over 20 organizations to develop innovative ways to collectively address watershed environmental issues.
– Tree Planting Services – Reforestation Assistance Pro­gram and the Roadside and Windbreak program.
– The MVCA delivers conservation education programs and special events that provide opportunities for the public to enjoy, learn from, and respect the natural environment.
Flood safety services
– Monitoring waterways and issuing flood bulletins to member municipalities and the media.
– Planning for flood emergencies and assisting municipalities to develop and maintain flood plans.
– Providing mapping and hydrology services to municipalities on a cost recovery basis.
– Maintenance of flood and erosion control structures in Listowel, Goderich, and the Municipality of Central Huron.
– Administration of regulations to ensure fill, construction, and alterations to waterways proposals do not adversely affect flooding, slope stability or cause pollution.
Conservation Areas
– Management and operation of 28 properties encompassing 1,800 hectares.
Those conservation areas range from provincially significant wetlands to small day-use areas to the regionally significant Falls Reserve Conservation Area.
Beard said time will tell on the overall impact of the Clean Water Act. He noted the MVCA is undertaking strategic shifts in its service areas. Those in­clude:
– Increasing the organization’s involvement in providing soil and water conservation ser­vices to help landowners reduce the potential for soil erosion on properties.
– Developing conservation education programs at sites in communities where schools are located, and at learning ground areas.
– Assisting municipalities that have major flood-damage centres to develop flood emergency plans.
– Integrating the MVCA’s development regulation with municipal land-use planning policies and bylaws.
In 1986, the MVCA had a budget of roughly $2-million. In 2008, its budget was $2.3-million.
Beard said that over 22 years, the MVCA’s budget has remained almost the same, and the board is now working on a plan to stabilize its capital costs.
Minto Mayor David Anderson offered his support to the conservation authority efforts.
“We do realize how important you are to us,” he said. He added that Minto is interested in working with the authorities in efforts to be more cost effective.
However, like the MVCA the town is dealing with ongoing increased operating costs.
Council later approved its municipal levy of $59,947 (an increase of $5,284 over 2007).