Phosphorus reduction, a phragmites control pilot project, creation of new wetlands and significant trail construction projects top the list of projects that the Essex Region Conservation Authority ERCA budget has identified for 2016.
“The approved 2016 ERCA budget totals $8.4 million, with a levy contribution from municipalities of about 2.9 million,” said ERCA General Manager Richard Wyma. “This continues to demonstrate the excellent value that ERCA provides to our member municipalities and the creativity and innovation that we are able to implement in funding important conservation work for this region.”
For instance, he notes that upon completion of the Cypher Systems Greenway, which was funded through the efforts of the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, donations, corporate support and a Canada 150 grant, more than 70 kilometres of Greenway trail will have been acquired and developed for the benefit of our residents at no cost to municipal taxpayers.
ERCA will coordinate the development of Stormwater Management Guidelines to provide consistency for stormwater submissions throughout the region at a substantial cost savings to municipalities; and will also deliver Risk Management Services. “Absent ERCA’s role, each municipality would have to train and fund their own staff and Risk Management program to comply with the Clean Water Act,” Wyma explained. “As well, ERCA successfully lobbied and advocated for broader access to provincial Source Protection Municipal Implementation Funding for all municipalities in the Essex Region, significantly reducing costs for municipal program delivery for three years.”
Already this year, ERCA has launched a new Specialist High Skills Majors certification program and in the spring, will host a Lake Erie Student Conference to connect secondary school students, teachers and Great Lakes professionals with environmental challenges in the western Lake Erie basin and highlight Great Lakes related career opportunities across a broad spectrum of professions.
Continuing to strive to create a state of environmental sustainability for the region, ERCA will also restore at least 125 acres of land, plant120,000 trees and 20 acres of prairie habitat. Work is already underway to create five new acres of wetlands that will help restore hydrology, improve water quality and habitat for wildlife and fish.
ERCA will work with partners to undertake a Detroit River Fish Habitat Study to assess the type, location and approximate cost of coastal or in-water habitat structures to be used to target priority projects; and will implement projects and research to reduce phosphorus loadings to Lake Erie, including the analysis of water control structures for tile drainage management, rain gardens for urban storm water management, urban and rural Low Impact Development (LID) projects and the research of innovative farming practices and Best Management Practices.
Based on Current Value Assessment, the cost of conservation is about $15.57/household valued at $200,000. “A survey of all 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario recognizes that ERCA is in the top 10 in terms of programs and services,” Wyma concludes. “At the same time, ERCA ranked 30th out of 36 Conservation Authorities in terms of General Levy supporting operations its programs (21.7%), consistently well below the average (41.6%) over the last three years. This again shows the tremendous value ERCA provides for Essex region.”