Grand Valley's contribution to Grand River Conservation Authority up 5.3%

·3 min read

Grand Valley will contribute a larger slice of the pie as a conservation authority asked for more funding to make up for a pandemic-related shortfall.

“This is probably one of the most difficult budgets we have had in recent years,” said Chris White, chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA). “COVID-19 and its ongoing impact on the conservation authority has made it a moving target.”

The overall increase to the municipal levy is 2.5 per cent. The Town of Grand Valley’s levy allocation represents an increase of 5.3 per cent. This is impacted by how the conservation authority levy is prorated for the participating watershed municipalities.

The town will pay a general levy of $33,396 for 2021 to the conservation authority as directed by the council. The town paid $31,711 to the organization in 2020.

“The Town of Grand Valley’s property assessment is growing at a faster pace than other watershed municipalities, which is why it is higher than the overall 2.5 per cent municipal levy increase,” said Lisa Stocco, manager of communications for the conservation authority.

This equates to an average of about $11.09 per watershed resident, an increase of 12 cents per watershed resident compared to the 2020 budget.

This comes as staff from the authority presented a draft budget to the town. They proposed a $32 million budget with reserves of $2 million. The town is part of 26 municipalities or regions, in the Grand River watershed, transferring money to the authority.

The GRCA board approved the budget on Friday, Feb. 26. Municipalities will contribute $12.2 million in the general municipal levy to the conservation authority in 2021, about 38 per cent of the conservation authority’s total budget.

“We recognize that our municipal partners, a major source of our funding, continue to face significant challenges,” said White. “Our staff and our board worked hard to ensure the budget was balanced. In 2021, COVID-19 will continue to pose challenges as we continue to work through the global pandemic.”

These include $1 million in special projects, $31 million to expenditures, and a general municipal levy of $12,225.00.

“The GRCA provides critical flood mitigation services, as well as unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities, which continue to be vital to ensuring the health and well-being of the residents in our communities throughout the Grand River watershed,” said White.

They also received federal and provincial grants such as $700,000 from the water and erosion control infrastructure (WECI) program and $640,000 from the source protection program grant.

Included in this is a capital spending budget for water quality management equipment, software systems and gauge equipment for its flood forecasting and warning program, as well as significant maintenance for dams and dikes.

“In 2021, WECI funds will be applied to the costs associated with the capital and maintenance of these structures,” said Stocco. “We are planning a WECI project in 2021 for Luther Dam to replace the stop logs. Major upgrades were completed to Luther Dam in 2012.”

It also includes funds for regular maintenance, major repairs and new construction. Some of the major capital projects planned within the conservation areas include expanding the north side gatehouse, new fencing at Elora Gorge, and bridge replacement and Harris Mill masonry repairs at Rockwood.

The GRCA continues to work on the updates and implementation of a drinking water source protection plan for each of the four watersheds in the Lake Erie source protection region, including the Grand River watershed.

Along with supporting municipalities and other agencies in implementing the plans, the focus in 2021 will continue to be completing updates to the Grand River Source Protection Plan. This includes the development of water quantity policies, updating water quality vulnerability assessments, and developing the annual progress report for the Grand River Source Protection Plan.

Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner