SVCA: Public to have greater input in flood forecasting

·3 min read

FORMOSA – One of the highlights of the March 16 meeting of the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority board of directors was a presentation by Elise MacLeod, manager of water resources. Included was an introduction to a new flood forecasting tool that invites public input.

There are four main components to water resources, said MacLeod – water quality monitoring, flood and erosion control projects, flood forecasting and warning, and drinking water source protection – consisting of mandatory and non-mandatory programs.

MacLeod noted the majority of programs are mandatory, with the non-mandatory programs in the first category, water quality.

At present, the water resources team is missing a member – the flood forecasting and warning co-ordinator. However, the majority of the work of flood forecasting continues, as evidenced by the notice issued the day of the meeting.

Monitoring water quality is done “upstream, so downstream remains healthy,” said MacLeod in her report. It involves surface water, groundwater and biomonitoring, to establish baseline data, observe trends and assess watershed program effectiveness.

MacLeod said there are 31 surface water monitoring sites (not including those monitored for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization project), 23 groundwater sites and 20 biomonitoring sites, with mapping available to the public on the SVCA website.

Watershed report cards are released every five years, in partnership with Conservation Ontario. They report on groundwater and surface water quality, forest conditions and wetland conditions for both the Saugeen watershed and its sub-watersheds.

MacLeod’s report included flood and erosion control infrastructure. There are 30 structures including dams, most of which were constructed during the 1970s and 1980s. Some are owned by the SCVA while others are maintained by the SVCA.

There are two approaches to flood control, MacLeod said – non-structural (keeping people away from the water) and structural (keeping the water away from people).

The only dam the SVCA regularly operates is in Durham.

The flood forecasting and warning system provides rapid advanced warning and technical support to people whose lives and properties may be endangered by flooding.

Water levels are monitored by 20 stream gauges. In addition, weather data is collected – precipitation, wind speed and air temperature.

MacLeod described a shift in flood forecasting that will invite public input. The new system is not quite ready to be launched officially (that will come probably in late April or May). However, MacLeod described the signs that will be posted at flood watch locations. Each will have a unique reference number and QR code.

The system will involve working with municipal partners. One director, Kevin Eccles of West Grey, suggested public works employees would be a better resource than chief building officials.

Board chair Barbara Dobreen, Southgate, spoke in terms of “boots on the ground” – bylaw officers and others, anyone who can observe and report.

The system won’t be used only for flood events – it will also be used for such things as beaver dams.

MacLeod said that while the system has not been officially launched, it is active.

SVCA general manager Jennifer Stephens said the launch will take place once all the details are in place.

The fourth element is drinking water source protection, which is a mandatory program funded by the province. SVCA is part of the Saugeen, Grey Sauble, Northern Bruce Peninsula Source Protection Region that works to protect the quantity and quality of municipal drinking water.

There are 38 municipal residential drinking water systems – 29 draw from groundwater, eight from a surface water source and one (Hanover) from a combination of the two.

New initiatives include greater access to data by the public, updated floodplain mapping, increased public interaction and awareness, and maximizing funding opportunities – several grants are in progress.

Financial report

The Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority board of directors approved the audited financial statement for 2022.

As presented by John Bujold of Baker Tilly, the statement shows the SVCA is in a “healthy financial position,” with an accumulated surplus of $13.7 million.

This is made up of $3.57 million in reserves and $10.1 in capital assets.

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