You have probably noticed that The Review and other media often refer to updates from the South Nation Conservation authority during the ongoing flood situation in this part of Ontario.
The Review thought it was a good time to check in with the South Nation Conservation (SNC) Authority and the Raisin River Conservation Authority to get their take on funding cuts for hazard and flood management.
“It’s not about the percentages or the numbers, it’s about commitment,” according to John Mesman, Team Lead of Communications for South Nation Conservation.
About 2.5 per cent, or $176,000, came from the province prior to recent announcements to reduce transfer payments by 50%; the SNC’s annual allocation will be $91,000, or one per cent of the total budget.
Provincial support for conservation authorities was greatly reduced in the mid-1990s and was not restored, he noted.
Conservation authorities are governed by municipally-appointed boards and are largely funded by municipalities, self-generated revenue and fundraising.
He notes that at this time of year especially, provincial funding is used to monitor water levels and weather forecasts and operating water control structures to provide advance notice of flooding to muncipalities and residents in order to coordinate with emergency responders.
The provincial cuts represent an $85,000 loss for the Raisin River Conservation Authority (RRCA).
In addition to monitoring water levels and weather forecasts as part of its flood forecasting and warning program for municipalities and the general public, the RRCA also operates and maintains three dams on the Garry River system and the Fly Creek flood control system in Cornwall.
Provincial cuts could mean extra costs for municipalities
“We can’t stop protecting people and property from natural hazards, so other programs may be affected. If municipal levies are increased to make up the loss in provincial funding, then it’s basically more downloading to municipalities,” says Richard Pilon, General Manager of the RRCA.
Pilon noted that the provincial government also recently cancelled the 50 Million Trees Program. This program was supporting the RRCA’s tree-planting program which saw an average of 45,000 trees planted annually within the RRCA watershed. The loss of funding for that program is about $45,000 annually.
“Cutting natural hazards funding and tree planting programs is really short-sighted and problematic right now in light of the fact that Ontario is experiencing stronger and more frequent flood events as a result of climate change impacts,” said Pilon.