Essex Region Conservation identifies 2017 programs and budget

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

Opening the Cypher Systems Group Greenway, rehabilitation of a significant Lake Erie coastal wetland at Sturgeon Creek in Leamington, and proposed Water and Erosion Control Infrastructure Projects totaling $2.1 million are just a few of the projects and programs proposed by the Essex Region Conservation Authority for 2017.

The budget totals just over $11 million and includes a levy contribution from member municipalities of approximately $3 million.

“For every dollar contributed through the levy, ERCA is successful in raising $2.66 dollars from other sources,” said Richard Wyma, General Manager.  “Projects like the much anticipated Cypher Systems Group Greenway were acquired and developed without any local tax dollars.

“As well, ERCA has been extremely successful in bringing capital funds for water and erosion control infrastructure programs to our local region. There is only $5 million available for all 36 Conservation Authorities, and over the past decade, a significant amount of the total allocation for the entire Province of Ontario has been directed to the Windsor/Essex region.”  Wyma goes on to note that these are just two of many examples of the extraordinary return on investment that ERCA brings over and above the environmental work they do.

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Originally, a comprehensive review of ERCA programs and the environmental needs of this region was undertaken, and a levy increase of over $300,000 was identified to meet these challenges.  “In attempting to strike a balance between meeting the sustainability needs of our community while recognizing the fiscal realities of our municipal partners, a number of changes have been proposed to our programs, fees, and organizational structure,” Wyma reports.  “Through this internal program review process, adjustments to programming, and a review of our fees for service, more than $200,000 was cut to reduce the 2017 requested budget increase to $90,900.  The proposed budget attempts to address some of our most pressing challenges and improve program delivery in these areas, but will also result in some service delivery impacts in others.”

Wyma notes these include added capacity to respond to requests for permits and development; and ERCA’s outdoor education program, while reducing on-the-ground outreach services, re-aligning fundraising responsibilities, and adjusting some operational standards at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

2017 also marks the final implementation year of ERCA’s five-year Sustainability Plan and the elimination of the accumulated operational deficit, which was nearing $480,000 five years ago.  “It is important to note that we introduced our capital and operational reserves, deficit reduction and organizational stabilization programs with no increase in levy contributions to those outcomes,” Wyma added.

Even with the budget reductions, there are many remarkable programs included in the 2017 workplan.

These include:

 

  • Work with partners to fund the creation of a 70 acre managed wetland cell at Cedar Creek Conservation Area and a new 10-acre experimental wetland at Hillman Marsh.
  • Restore at least 125 acres of land, plant 120,000 trees, 20 acres of prairie and collect 2,000 pounds of seed to propagate and replant
  • Continue our comprehensive water quality monitoring program while identifying projects to address phosphorus runoff and resulting Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Create the Oldcastle ‘hub’ to connect ERCA’s greenways to the Herb Gray Parkway Trails, and the trail systems in the Towns of LaSalle and Tecumseh
  • Create comprehensive ‘Place for Life’ policies to operationalize the Strategic Plan
  • Improve ability to respond to permit applications and improve customer service by adding technical capacity

These special projects are all in addition to the significant work that Essex Region Conservation undertakes annually, such as habitat protection and restoration, water quality projects and monitoring, flood response, education and recreation to create a future of sustainability and a region that is the Place for Life.

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