Windsor/Essex – Community energy planning and outreach to combat climate change, plans to monitor and reduce phosphorus and fight blue green algae, continued work to address flooding and erosion, and completing a significant restoration project on Pêche Island in partnership with the City of Windsor are just some of the top priorities the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) has outlined for 2020.
“The Essex Region has experienced some of the most significant impacts to our landscapes over the last decade. We are experiencing hotter summers, warming Great Lakes, rising lake levels, warmer winters, increased rain events and more frequent, severe storms,” cautioned Richard Wyma, ERCA’s General Manager. “These changes affect every part of our lives. While efforts to slow this change must continue, we also need to help our region adapt to its impacts. To most efficiently and effectively undertake and advance this, we need to work together to improve knowledge and advance the understanding of climate change, identify risks and vulnerabilities, enhance regional preparedness; and gaps in knowledge; policy and programming related to terrestrial, aquatic and nearshore systems, infrastructure, water quality and quantity, agriculture and communities in the Essex Region.”
ERCA has identified a broad array of programs to increase habitat and forest cover; maintain and expand conservation areas and trails; assist our member municipalities in protecting people and infrastructure from the dangers of flooding and erosion; and provide meaningful education and engagement opportunities for our residents.
The 2020 Budget to support these programs totals $10,576,317, which includes a total levy contribution of $3,386,667. This represents an increase of $148,000, or $0.49 per person ($10.00 to $10.49 per person) though the actual cost per household ($250,000) decreased by $0.12 to $19.57. The proposed levy increase amount is primarily to offset 2019 reductions in provincial funding for Flood Forecasting ($98,000) and costs associated with human resources.
“With changes to government priorities and associated funding cuts, it is harder to support key programs with external support. These are programs funded by levy in other conservation authorities,” added Wyma. “The proposed budget is only enough to maintain the ‘status quo’. Despite our efforts, we need to do more to improve the health of our watersheds, keep beaches open more, deal more effectively with phosphorous and blue-green algae in our lakes, and to restore more wetlands, forests and habitats. These are essential for sustainable communities to build resilience to climate change, and importantly, attract and retain the talent this region needs.”
ERCA will not fill two existing vacant staff positions, and is unable to add new positions in 2020, despite significant increases in development and plan review, conservation area visitation and use of the greenways, and pressures related to flood response. ERCA also intends to develop a new 5-Year Sustainability Plan to support initiatives identified in the Strategic Plan and the required resources to meet the needs of the region’s watersheds and municipalities.
ERCA’s annual revenues for programs and services ranks consistently in the top 10 of all 36 Conservation Authorities. At the same time, ERCA’s operational levy funds less than 40% of its operations, placing ERCA in the bottom five of all Conservation Authorities, and well below the provincial average, which is approximately 50%.
“The expertise that ERCA provides is a cost effective way to manage regional environmental priorities,” says Tania Jobin, ERCA’s Vice Chair. “Uniquely, ERCA provides a significant return on investment in addition to the programs and services that we provide to all of our municipal partners.”
Since 1973, ERCA has been enriching and sustaining the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region as the Place for Life.
Danielle Breault Stuebing
Director, Communications & Outreach Services
519-776-5209 ext. 353