Back on Nov. 9, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier send a letter to Rod Philips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks regarding growing concerns with the activities of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority. The letter asked that the section “an authority may enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a municipality situated in whole or in part within its area of jurisdiction in respect of programs and services that the authority provides on behalf of the municipality” be deleted. Hillier copied the letter to municipalities in his riding, asking for their support.
North Frontenac deferred the request, directing the Mayor to contact Hillier for clarification.
That clarification came Friday at a special meeting of North Frontenac Council.
In the interim, North Frontenac also received correspondence from the general managers of the two authorities in its area, as well as letters from representatives of various lake associations.
“Conservation authorities are currently under review as they’ve moved to a new Ministry,” Hillier said. “The purpose of my letter (to municipalities) was to ensure a variety of views on the review.”
The Townships of Central Frontenac and Mississippi Mills passed resolutions that support what the local conservation authorities have been doing.
At the end of Hillier’s presentation, North Frontenac took a different track, passing a resolution that supports a review of the Conservation Act to include:
• “Municipal makeup of the Executive Committee (Board of Directors) and define the length of the term for its members;
• “Ensure conservation authorities have detailed asset management plans and adequate reserves to avoid negative municipal levy impacts, which is not mandated in the Act;
• “Review of Development Application Packages where possible versus conducting on-site inspections to avoid duplication and additional costs to the applicant;
• “Ensure that their mandate is fulfilled.”
The resolution also asks that municipalities be involved in the review.
Hillier told Council that in his experience, CAs have had trouble fulfilling their core mandate of maintaining water levels, erosion control and regulating development on waterways and conservation lands.
“We’ve seen them expand their ancillary services thru MOUs with municipalities instead of replacing bridges culverts and dams and maintaining trails/maintenance of their properties,” Hillier said. “I don’t want to get rid of them but I want them to look at their ancillary services as temporary and get back to their core services.
“(And) in the MVCA, representation on the board is more based on the number of people in the municipality rather than the size of the watershed. North Frontenac has one representative, Mississippi Mills has two and Ottawa has five.”
“I sit at those meetings and all I ever hear about is Carp Creek,” said Coun. Gerry Martin.
“Some would call it a ditch,” said Hillier. “I call them about the Clyde — the dams on it are in disrepair.
“I’m told they don’t have the resources — as I drive by their $6 million building.”
Mayor Ron Higgins said the Township finds value in some of the services like the voluntary septic inspection program but questioned the need for a governing board.
“Why do they need a committee?” Higgins said. “I’ve concluded that aspect should go back to the province.
“I think the whole conservation authority needs to be reviewed, not just the specifics of your letter.”
“The thing I find most frustrating as the lack of reserves for infrastructure,” said Martin. “They spend money on new parks when the Kash dam needs to be replaced.
“And there’s the Ottawa old boys network who suggested a special levy on North Frontenac to fix the dam — Thank God that didn’t fly.”
“If you’re interested in conservation, you fix the dam,” said Hillier. “If you’re interested in politics, you build a building.”
“I’m not in favour of restricting MOUs because they’re requested by the municipality,” said Coun. John Inglis. “I hear a lot of praise from lake associations because they get a lot of help with their lake plans.”
“My letter isn’t saying they don’t do some good,” said Hillier. “But there are a number of examples of expensive litigation over a half-acre of land.”
MPP Randy Hillier was at a special meeting of North Frontenac Council Friday to drum up support for a review of the role conservation authorities play in municipalities. Photo/Craig Bakay