SVCA directors hear reports on risk management, user fees, source protection

FORMOSA – The Feb. 16 meeting of the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) board of directors at the Formosa offices included presentations by Glenn Sheppard of Marsh Insurance, Sean-Michael Stephen of Watson and Associates Ltd. (user fee review), Laura Molson – SVCA manager of corporate services, and Carl Seider – Drinking Water Source Protection.

Marsh provides insurance coverage for conservation authorities, source protection authorities and Conservation Ontario.

Sheppard gave an overview of current coverage and services provided by the company, as well as information on the legal duties and obligations of directors.

One of the reasons for an increased focus on risk management, said Sheppard, is something he referred to as “social inflation – an increasing propensity to sue.” He explained that a number of years ago, the kind of people who would go hiking on a conservation area trail were unlikely to sue. That’s changed. Now, someone on a trail “trips on a root and calls their lawyer.”

Watson and Associates Economists Ltd.’s Stephen gave a plan review and permit user-fee review. The consultant is conducting the review for SVCA and will be making recommendations; these recommendations will involve increasing fees so they’re closer to full cost recovery. The plan is to impose the changes in 2024.

Among the considerations are what other CAs are doing, and provincial legislation. Stephen stated in his presentation that “SVCA plan review fees would remain the lowest or second lowest in the comparator group.”

When asked what other conservation authorities are doing, Stephen said, “Some are at 100 per cent (cost recovery), and some are at 100 and 80 per cent, depending on the type.”

A full report will be presented to the board.

Molson’s presentation described the work of the corporate services department of the SVCA – accounting, communications, education, executive assistance, finance, GIS and scanning. It includes everything from management of day-to-day finances and payroll to press releases, from educational programming to preparation for authority and committee meetings.

Seider is project manager for drinking water source protection; source protection is one of the key elements of the Clean Water Act, 2006, stemming from the O’Connor Inquiry.

Seider said source protection is “the first barrier in a multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection.”

Source protection takes place on a regional basis – SVCA is part of a region that also includes Grey Sauble and Northern Bruce Peninsula. It contains 38 municipal water systems – 29 drawing from groundwater, eight from a surface source and one from groundwater and surface water.

No impact on levy

SVCA general manager Jennifer Stephens presented a report that included an outline of recent meetings with municipalities.

She noted that one common question she’s been asked involves the municipal levy.

“Several municipalities have asked if we’ll be decreasing our levy,” she said.

The question comes in light of the More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23), which prohibits conservation authorities from providing natural heritage comments on proposals received under the Planning Act. Stephens said the levy won’t be impacted, since it was “never on the levy.” It was funded through user fees.

She further noted that SVCA has been working with both Bruce and Grey counties to provide information on applications received before the change was implemented at the beginning of the year, keeping in mind the provincial legislation.

“We’re doing our best to see that the applicant is not inconvenienced,” she said.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times