Manitoba introduces Sustainable Watersheds Act
By Ground Water Canada
By Ground Water Canada
Dec. 4, 2017, Winnipeg – The Manitoba government has proposed legislation aimed at strengthening watershed management in the province through measures that would include protecting wetlands, improving approval processes and enforcement for drainage projects, and modernizing the conservation districts program.
“Our government’s comprehensive strategy on watershed management marks a momentous first step in the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan,” said sustainable development minister Rochelle Squires in a Nov. 30 news release from the provincial government. “As a province, we face many challenges related to our watershed. We need to protect against flooding, reduce nutrient loading in our lakes and waterways, and improve water quality for all Manitobans.”
“We look forward to working with agricultural producers on protecting the valuable function of wetlands, while still promoting land use and development,” agriculture minister Ralph Eichler said.
The sustainable watersheds act makes amendments to the Conservation Districts Act, the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Act, the Water Protection Act and the Water Rights Act.
The new proposed act would include a number of key changes, including:
- new requirements that would ensure drainage projects do not result in loss of certain classes of wetlands;
- modernizing drainage inspection and enforcement tools, and increasing penalties for illegal drainage;
- allowing the establishment of nutrient targets to help measure water quality across jurisdictions;
- changing the name of conservation districts to watershed districts;
- expanding the mandate of the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation to include wetland protection, mitigation and restoration;
- supporting transboundary water management for improved water quality and reduced impacts of flooding and drought;
- modifying drainage licencing processes to focus on high-impact projects; and
- modernizing the Conservation Districts Program to strengthen watershed management planning and implementation including the ability to enter into agreements with Indigenous communities.
The legislation would also set out a foundation to implement GRowing Outcomes in Watersheds (GROW), which is programming for ecological goods and services that is based on the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) model, Eichler said. GROW would incentivize agricultural producers and other landowners to participate through best management practices in the areas of grassland and wetland restoration, water retention projects, and management of riparian areas, he added.