Of Critical Value: Collaborative, Risk-based Approach to Flood Management

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MNRF Special Advisor on Flooding recommends province consult with Conservation Authorities

Doug McNeil | photo credit Joyanne Pursaga / Winnipeg Sun / Postmedia NetworkFollowing an independent review of flood management and 2019 flood events, Doug McNeil, Special Advisor on Flooding to the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry recognizes the critical value that Conservation Authorities (CAs) contribute to responsibilities shared among municipalities, emergency management officials and the provincial government.

The advisor's report "recommends that the province ‘consult with the conservation authorities on their application of the natural hazards-based approach and risk-based approach to managing flooding.’ "

"Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski will be reviewing (McNeil's 66) recommendations and won’t commit right now to more funding, but he says he believes the province will be asking the federal government to contribute," reports The Canadian Press in The Star.

“(Conservation Ontario is) very pleased to see that he appreciates the collaborative approach, however, maintaining and making improvements in Ontario’s flood management programs requires resources that include appropriate policy and program support,” said Ms. Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario, an association which represents 36 local watershed management agencies.

“For example, the 50 percent reduction to provincial transfer payments for the natural hazards program affected all CAs and erode our ability to effectively address issues raised by the Flood Advisor.”

In April, 2019, the Province of Ontario cut funding, by about 50 percent, for natural hazards and flood forecasting and warning work by conservation authorities. The province provides a "minority of the funding" CAs receive; the remainder flows from a variety of watershed management programs in partnership with all levels of government. Cooperative programs help to reduce or prevent costly and devastating damages of flooding, protect water resources, reduce pollution from reaching the Great Lakes, and support healthy watersheds, according to Conservation Ontario.

In August, 2019, additional revisions (i.e. reduced funding) to the Conservation Authority Act were vaguely proposed by the Ford government. If passed, the changes would "negatively impact, water, soil, and the health of the local watershed" according to CA professionals including scientists.

Read detailed news article via Water Canada and response from Conservation Ontario.

Download a case study on Conservation Authorities' approach to collaborative flood monitoring & warning.