“It’s change, and there’s some
– WAYNE HILDEBRAND
The goal of realigning all conservation districts to match true watershed boundaries will continue, but municipalities and C. D. s won’t be pressured to conform, according to an official from Manitoba Water Stewardship.
Most stakeholders agree that the integrated watershed model, which is internationally accepted as the best for watershed planning, makes sense.
However, roughly half of all the province’s 18 conservation districts – mainly those formed during the 1980s and ’90s – that were based on municipal not watershed lines, aren’t rushing to adopt the changes.
“There’s no opposition to the watershed concept. But they are struggling a little bit about how they are going to divide and split up areas from one conservation district to the other. They are just unsure about how it’s all going to shake out,” said Wayne Hildebrand, manager of watershed planning and programs.
“It’s change, and there’s some apprehension there.”
In some cases, the reluctance to embrace the proposed changes may come from municipalities and officials that have spent decades developing certain projects or acquiring assets that may have to be handed over to another jurisdiction, he said.
“Things like buying tractors, forage seeders, and shelter belt planters, and all of a sudden now, your part of that municipality is leaving.”
There is no set deadline for aligning C. D. s with watershed lines, Hildebrand said. But with an eye on speeding up the process, officials from the provincial government and the Manitoba Conservation Districts Association will be meeting this month with the goal of building consensus in order to move forward.
There are 35 watersheds in the province, but currently only 18 C. D. s.
The fact that all newly created C. D. s must be based on watershed boundaries will add a further push to the process, because the new districts will “overflow” into the old ones based on municipal lines and “force” a discussion on the matter with officials there, he said.
Support for the concept
LONG DIVISION: Wayne Hildebrand, manager of watershed planning and programs for Manitoba Water Stewardship.
was not difficult to find among delegates present at the MCDA annual convention last week.
“The only common sense way to do a C. D. is by watershed,” said Maurice Leclaire, a councillor of the R. M. of Ritchot and sub-district director of the Seine-Rat River C. D, which was formed in 2002 and is based on the watershed model.
Laurie Evans, who is a councillor with the R. M. of Ste. Anne, and also a director on the Seine-Rat River C. D. board, added that the “parochialism” that sometimes infects municipal government disappears under the watershed model, even though boundaries may overrun a number of other jurisdictions.
“When you go to a board meeting, I would defy you to identify which municipality those directors came from,” he said.
“They take their municipal hat off and throw it away somewhere and put on their conservation district hat. I have never heard anyone say, ‘Our municipality is not getting our share.’”
Rod Veitch, chair of the Little Saskatchewan River C. D. and a councillor with the R. M. of Daly, said that one advantage for a C. D. based on municipal lines is the fact that there is a definite line of responsibility.
“Watershed boundaries on the landscape are sometimes hard to find,” he said. “It might divide a quarter or a section.”
He noted that most of the resistance to the watershed model is coming from rural municipalities that may fear losing control, reduced access to resources or tax base changes.
In some cases, he suggested that two C. D. s could work jointly on a single watershed without altering existing boundaries, as the LSRCD is doing with Upper Assiniboine River C. D. in discussions on watershed planning for the Arrow-Oak River watershed.
“We think that could work, but in the end, we don’t know whether they’ll allow us to do that,” said Veitch. [email protected]