Nina Bifolchi

The Nottawasaga River and The Conservation Authority

The Conservation Authorities Act was first legislated in 1946. On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto and the surrounding areas, killing 81 people. After such destruction, the Government of Ontario took a closer look at existing legislation regarding Conservation Authorities (CA’s).

Wasaga Beach is located in the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) watershed. The NVCA is a public agency dedicated to the preservation of a healthy, safe environment. NVCA staff provide expertise to municipal staff and land owners during development proposal review.
The NVCA Board of Directors consists of 26 Board members representing 18 member municipalities.

Over time the Province has continued to download responsibilities to Conservation Authorities, without further financial contributions.
After the 2010 election I was appointed as the NVCA Council Representative. Through my own experiences and others, I knew that improvements were needed at the NVCA.

When I first was appointed to the NVCA Board of Directors in 2011 there was a large turnover of new board members. I hit the ground running during 2011 (not without some push back) when I initiated board member orientation meetings in order to better inform those of us making decisions around the table as to our mandate and responsibilities.

I was fortunate to gain the support of my fellow board members and was elected as Vice Chair in 2012.

I fought for and initiated a review of the NVCA’s roles and responsibilities as this was something that caused great confusion for many years and clarity was long overdue. Along with both NVCA and Town Staff we created a chart that clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of the NVCA. This chart is now part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Town and the NVCA and is being used by other municipalities and staff. This chart can be found on the NVCA’s website at www.nvca.on.ca

In 2013 and 2014 I have had the pleasure of being the NVCA Board of Directors Chair. This position also gains me a position on Conservation Ontario’s Council which consists of representatives from all 36 Ontario Conservation Authorities.

In 2013 I initiated and gained support from the NVCA Board of Directors to move forward with a third party Efficiency Audit Review of the NVCA organization as a whole. I chaired the five member committee and oversaw the entire process from start to finish.

The Efficiency Audit Review completed by Gazda Houlne and Associates has resulted in service delivery, operational and performance management recommendations. The Committee and I continue to work with staff on these recommendations. These recommendations can be found on the NVCA’s website at www.nvca.on.ca .

During the 2010 election I spoke out to concerns I had regarding the need to develop a sensible and affordable plan for property owners to prevent their river banks from eroding which contributes to the Nottawasaga River filling in and properties to be lost. The Town has completed our Shore Line Protection Strategy for the Nottawasaga River. This strategy is to assist in having standard shoreline wall designs reviewed and generally accepted by the NVCA. This will assist property owners when installing a river bank wall or replacing an existing deteriorated wall. It will also save each individual property owner time and money while contributing to the overall health of the river.

graphic_NottawasagaRicer

Source Water Protection is another important program that has been put in place to protect our water source under the Clean Water Act. This plan identifies potential sources of pollution and risk to water supplies and develops mitigation strategies to reduce those risks.

The NVCA periodically updates their floodplain mapping based on new information received through independent reviews or through submissions submitted along with development applications. This year we created a pilot program to deal with a new category called “low risk areas” that would streamline the approval process minimizing unnecessary work and cost for the landowner and the NVCA. Examples of low risk activities are minor development activities (example: pool, grain bin, minor accessory structure.) Wasaga Beach is part of this pilot program and I look forward to seeing this program expand.

Unfortunately in Canada homeowners can’t purchase insurance to protect their property against overland flooding. While conversations have started, further discussion needs to occur between Governments, Developers, Conservation Authorities and Insurance Companies to work towards a solution.

Each spring the Town’s Emergency Management Team in consultation with the NVCA reviews our flood contingency plan. Mother Nature can create so many variables from one year to the next it is important to review the conditions each spring to ensure an appropriate plan is in place and that warnings are given to those living on the river about potential flooding situations. Regardless of how much planning and mitigation communities do, Mother Nature will always have a surprise in store. Nobody beats Mother Nature. The best we can do is try to be prepared.

Water quality is on many people’s minds when looking at the growth that is expected in Simcoe County in the coming years. The NVCA has been working with municipalities, developers and their consultants on large scale developments to ensure there is not a negative impact on our water quality. In particular the Minesing Wetlands and the Nottawasaga River have been high priorities.

Collaboration has occurred with these large scale developments to ensure that phosphorous management plans are in place and that there is no additional nutrient loading to ensure water quality, including water temperature. Low Impact Development (LID) for stormwater management designs are being used to maintain water balance and mitigate impacts of stormwater runoff to ensure there are no cumulative impacts on flooding and erosion hazards. LID practices aim to increase the amount of water infiltrating into the ground.

Despite what some people think, it is not the job or mandate of the NVCA to prevent development. The NVCA is to protect life and property from natural hazards. Conservation Authorities need to work with land owners, developers and municipal leaders to develop innovative, practical solutions to address our future growth.

The 2013 Annual NVCA Report can be found at www.nvca.on.ca

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