PROVINCE ANNOUNCES ASSINIBOINE HILLS CONSERVATION DISTRICT TO INCLUDE BRANDON
– – – Conservation Programs to Improve Water Quality, Support Healthy, Sustainable Watersheds: Minister
The Assiniboine Hills Conservation District will expand in 2012 to include the City of Brandon, allowing increased co-operation on regional watershed improvement initiatives, Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick announced today.
“This new partnership with the City of Brandon is the largest urban expansion initiative in the 39-year history of the conservation districts program,” said Melnick. “Our government is committed to working directly with urban and rural municipalities to plan and deliver programming to improve drinking water quality and to support healthy and sustainable watersheds for the future.”
The provincial government is committed to continue expanding the conservation district program with a view to eventually include all municipal-governed portions of Manitoba in watershed-based conservation districts, Melnick said.
The inclusion of Brandon will bring additional cost-shared funding to the Assiniboine Hills Conservation District from the province and the City of Brandon. Conservation programming to improve water quality and reduce water treatment costs is a priority, Melnick said.
“We are very excited to have the City of Brandon as a new partner,” said Heather Dalgleish, chair of the Assiniboine Hills Conservation District. “This is an important step toward building relationships between urban and rural residents and working together to improve the health of our watershed.”
“We are looking forward to new opportunities through the conservation districts program and working together with our upstream and downstream neighbours on the Assiniboine River on water quantity and water quality issues,” said Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst.
A conservation district is a group of neighbouring rural municipalities working in partnership with the province to ensure that water and soil management issues in the watershed are dealt with in a sustainable manner, Melnick said. Since the first conservation district was created in 1972, the program has expanded to 18 conservation districts that now receive over $5.6 million in annual provincial funding plus another approximately $3.5 million from municipal partners and external sources. Individual district boundaries may vary, however they are usually based roughly on watersheds.
One of the first tasks a conservation district board undertakes is to develop an integrated watershed management plan, outlining programs, goals and priorities for the protection, conservation or restoration of water, aquatic ecosystems and drinking water sources in the watershed. All watershed management plans are unique and based largely on the issues and concerns of the community within each watershed. As local practices and attitudes change over time, the board will amend its programs to reflect these changes.