Ramara missing out on key conservation work, authority says
Lake Simcoe – LSRCA photo
Township says it doesn’t need conservation authority; ‘Ramara definitely did benefit and would continue to benefit,’ CAO says
By: Nathan Taylor Orillia Matters December 19 2019
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority is “disappointed” at the comments made by Ramara’s mayor at a county council meeting earlier this month.
Basil Clarke told council his township doesn’t “need (the conservation authority) to protect Lake Simcoe and to protect the watershed” in Ramara, saying there is enough in-house expertise.
“They have a lot of great expertise and we want to work with the municipality,” said Mike Walters, the conservation authority’s CAO.
However, the authority has a different kind of expertise, especially when it comes to floodplain management, he added.
“We’re specialized to do it and we can do it cheaply compared to municipalities (doing it on their own),” Walters said.
In 2017, Ramara decided to “discontinue some services” with the conservation authority, Walters explained. As a result, the township has missed out on restoration projects.
Between 2010 and 2016, the conservation authority completed 148 restoration projects in Ramara. The cost to the township over those years was $105,000, but the value of the work was $2.4 million, Walters said. This year, it undertook 123 projects across the watershed.
“Unfortunately, there’s none in the Township of Ramara,” he said.
In October, Ramara council passed a resolution that included a request that an exit clause be added to any new Conservation Authorities Act for any municipality able to prove it can provide the same services at the municipal level. That resolution was sent to Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks.
In the meantime, the conservation authority is mandated by legislation to provide certain services, including flood hazard planning.
“We’re not being paid (by Ramara) for that service. They’re complaining, but they’re getting the service,” Walters said.
Even if there wasn’t a conservation authority doing that work, the municipality would still be required to, and “I doubt they’d be able to do it for $40,000,” Walters said, referring to the amount Ramara paid to the conservation authority in 2018.
“Ramara definitely did benefit and would continue to benefit,” he said. “It’s unfortunate.”
There are nine paying municipalities, he said, who are “very supportive” of the authority’s work.
“The key thing is we do a lot more than floodplain management, and we do respect the taxpayer,” he said. “I’m confident that we’re not going to see other municipalities opting out, should that option be provided.”