A solid relationship between the municipal council and the local conservation district has benefited both in the RM of Norfolk, local officials say.
“There are a lot of drains in our municipality that the conservation district looks after, so that is huge for us,” said Bill Wieler, a councillor with the municipality. “We have always had a good relationship. It is a good fit and only makes sense to work with it in order to stretch both our dollars.”
The RM has been a solid partner to the Whitemud Watershed Conservation District (WWCD) for a number of years and earned the district’s conservation award in 2014.
“Specifically, the retention pond projects that we have partnered on are very helpful, for downstream as well as helping to rejuvenate the aquifer. It is really a win-win for everyone involved,” said Wieler.
The RM partnered with WWCD last year to construct three water retention ponds along the Manitoba Escarpment on Rat and Squirrel creek.
The RM offered support in terms of participating in landowner meetings and negotiations but also assisted in the construction process.
“The water usually comes fairly fast so these retention ponds will allow us to hold on to some of the water and control it a little bit better,” said Wieler. “We usually do a lot of the dirt work during construction for the WWCD because we have a lot of the equipment that is needed.”
The municipality was specifically recognized by the conservation district because of its willingness to collaborate, something mayor, Neil Christoffersen, hopes will be recognized by other municipalities and encourage similar partnerships.
“Water, flooding and water retention is a big issue and by being actively involved in this we hope to raise some awareness and get others aware of the work that has and is being done so that we can get more participation in other areas of the province. When we hold the water back everyone wins,” said Christoffersen.
Two of the three projects that were constructed last year are located side by side on two tributaries of Rat Creek and, once operational, will hold approximately 10 to 15 acre-feet of water each.
The third retention pond is located along Squirrel Creek and has the capacity to hold approximately 30 acre-feet of water.
“The retention ponds that we installed last year have been left to sit and pack down, so this year will be the first year that they will be holding water,” said Christoffersen.
Along with creating the retention ponds, the RM and WWCD also upgraded existing culverts and installed new culverts with gates in order to drain them following spring run-off.
“By population we are one of the largest watersheds in Manitoba and ours is a true watershed. So, everything that runs through here ends up in the Whitemud River and eventually in Lake Manitoba,” said Wieler.
By lowering water levels through the winter with the use of gated culverts, the retention ponds are able to capture more water during the spring run-off. This creates a number of benefits downstream, including slowing water flow and reducing the transfer of nutrients.