The town of Carleton Place will facilitate discussions between the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) and landowners affected by hitherto unenforced regulations that call for protection of wetlands under the 2006 Conservation Authorities Act. As part of a proposal to expand its regulatory coverage, the MVCA has been engaged in a series of consultations with developers, farmers, municipal officials, and area residents.
Matt Craig, manager of planning and regulations for the MVCA, told the council’s planning and protection committee on April 4 that when Queen’s Park originally passed the legislation, staffing issues, the state of mapping technology, and regulatory costs led the group to focus only on “the wetlands that the province said were really important. Now, the question is whether it is the time to implement the regulations as intended,” not just for provincially significant areas, but for all wetlands.
“We’ve been to most municipalities in Lanark County to provide information on what the impacts would be,” Craig said, adding “we are one of the last conservation authorities not to implement the provincial legislation as intended.”
Craig pointed out that if the proposal goes forward, the amount of Mississippi watershed wetlands covered would double to 8 per cent, which still falls below Environment Canada’s recommendation of 10 per cent.
Craig said the MVCA felt it was time to move forward given public concerns about climate change, the severity of two droughts since 2012, and the province’s recently published draft wetland conservation strategy. He noted the critical role played by wetlands in promoting water purification, biodiversity, and flood control, while arguing that the impact of future development in or near wetlands must be considered, along with mitigation measures and buffer zones designed to preserve the ecologically sensitive areas.
The MVCA already regulates 3,700kilometres of shoreline, 8,400kilometres of watercourses, and 180 square kilometres of provincially significant wetlands. The group handles about 140 permits annually, and normally holds one meeting annually to address cases that do not meet provincial protection criteria.