A funding increase should give Manitoba’s watershed districts some room to expand after previously maxing out provincial funds.
“It’s a signal that the Manitoba government believes in the value of our work and wants to work with us to fill the blank spots on our map,” said Ray Frey, chair of the Manitoba Association of Watersheds in a statement on April 1.
The 2020 provincial budget included an increase of just over $200,000 to the watershed district funding budget, for a total of $5.5 million, said a provincial spokesperson. This amounts to a four per cent increase.
The province funds the districts at a three-to-one ratio — for every $3 the province puts in the municipalities must put in $1 minimum.
Last year, the then conservation districts expressed frustration, saying they had municipalities that wanted to join the watershed district funding but couldn’t because of the lack of provincial cash.
In a statement, the province said talks on expansion are now ongoing and details would be released in due course.
“We don’t have all the details yet,” Frey said. “But with the changes finished on the district boundaries, names, and framework, we think now is the best time to bring on more municipalities as watershed district partners.”
Frey said he met with Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development Blaine Pedersen to discuss expansion.
“We explained that the three-to-one matching funds are key to convincing more municipalities to join our watershed districts,” said Frey. “It will enable the districts to expand their work without diluting resources for existing municipal members who have worked with us for many years.”
If a municipality wants to join a watershed district, the following must happen, according to a provincial spokesperson:
- The watershed district and the municipal council meet to discuss the program and process to join a district. If the municipality wants to proceed, the municipal council forwards a resolution requesting the province prepare a proposal outlining the terms and conditions (proposed financial structure, governance, and programming) of the agreement. The province considers the request including whether or not funding is available to support expansion to the new municipality, other requests for expansion, etc.
- A proposal is shared and reviewed with the district board and interested council for consideration. If the council is in support of the proposal, council passes a resolution approving the proposal to join. The proposal is then shared with all member municipalities of the district for their consideration. Each participating municipal council endorses the expansion through resolutions to Watershed Planning and Programs.
- If all member councils are in agreement, the district board passes a resolution accepting the expansion request and submits a request to the province for consideration. If approved, provincial staff formalize the partnership and amend the Watershed District Regulation to reflect its participation in the program.