Saugeen Valley Conservation struggling to keep up with flood work

Flooding in Williamsford April 1st, 2016. (photo by Kirk Scott)

The Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority is struggling to keep up with the increasing workload with declining funding.

Environmental Planning and Regulations Manager Erik Downing said he is surprised that funding cuts for flood control are still on the table while he is seeing more severe sudden focused rain events, high lake levels and increased development.

He added the province is starting to recognize the need for conservation authorities to address flooding and flood zone regulations, but not the need for money to do it.

“Because of the rainstorms we’re seeing, even just two or three weeks ago, Toronto got hit by a rainstorm. We were hearing about how large portions of [Highway] 401 were now a lake in essence, and even since then, I think the province has been announcing some new initiatives, and some new interest in this topic certainly, but it certainly isn’t being reflected in their proposed funding to conservation authorities,” he explained.

Downing said funding has not even increased at the rate of inflation for the past 30 years.

“And now, the news is that they’re actually going to cut that funding in half to our authority, which certainly isn’t a help for us to be able to tackle this challenge,” he added.

Downing said the proposal to chop funding in half comes as flood events increase.

Downing said there are more flood events, and record lake levels for July. He said climate change is also contributing to new challenges in the natural world.

Downing said both the Williamsford and Clifford rainfall events were only expected to happen once every 200 years instead of occurring one year apart and development is also on the rise.

“Real estate is very busy this time of year, development is very busy in the last couple of years. We’ve seen large percentage increases in the numbers of new applications, new permits, being applied for at our CA. Trying to keep up with that, our authority has put significant investment into planning and regulations,” he said.