News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

November 24, 2015


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Proposed Legislation Designed to Strengthen Surface Water Management: Minister Nevakshonoff

The Manitoba government will introduce proposed legislation that would strengthen the protection of wetlands, set nutrient targets to improve water quality, and enhance inspection and enforcement efforts including greater fines for illegal drainage, Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Tom Nevakshonoff announced today.

“We are fundamentally changing the way we protect wetlands and are taking a fresh approach to ensure clear water for future generations right across the province,” Minister Nevakshonoff said.  “Every action has a consequence and we need to be sure we continue to do the right thing for lakes and rivers.  These waterways are critical for the future of Manitoba and we have a responsibility to ensure these great lakes are protected for our children and grandchildren.”

The proposed bill would support a number of lake-friendly initiatives that would significantly advance efforts to protect Manitoba lakes, rivers and wetlands, the minister said.  The minister noted it would amend five provincial statutes including the Water Rights Act, the Water Protection Act, the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Act, the Planning Act and the Conservation Districts Act (renamed Watershed Districts Act). 

“Protecting wetlands is one of the single most important actions we can take for the health of Lake Winnipeg,” said Alexis Kanu, executive director, Lake Winnipeg Foundation.  “Our members have been pushing for strong drainage regulations that ensure we do not lose any more of our wetlands’ filtering capacity in Manitoba.  This legislation would be the first step in that direction and must be backed by strong regulation to truly translate to impact on the ground.”

Minister Nevakshonoff said after significant input through public workshops, written submissions and working with front-line groups such as the Keystone Agricultural Producers and various conservation districts, the province released Manitoba’s first comprehensive Surface Water Management Strategy in June 2014.  The minister said this proposed bill would support many initiatives outlined in the strategy and would:

  • ensure there is no net loss of wetland benefits by making landowners compensate for any such losses;
  • enable the establishment of water quality targets for nutrients and reporting requirements;
  • modernize the Conservation Districts program to strengthen integrated watershed management planning, implementation and stakeholder involvement;    
  • reduce red tape, streamline drainage licencing requirements and enable a registration process for prescribed low-impact/low-risk water control works; 
  • modernize inspection and enforcement tools, and increase penalties for illegal drainage to a maximum of $500,000;
  • recognize transboundary water boards such as the Red River Basin Commission and the newly formed Assiniboine River Basin Initiative; and
  • establish the Lake Friendly Stewards Alliance and recognize the Lake Friendly Accord. 

“Today’s landmark announcement is the beginning of the government of Manitoba’s insightful leadership toward a healthier environment in our province,” says Scott Stephens, director, regional operations, prairies, Ducks Unlimited Canada.  “Given the urgent need to improve water management decision-making, in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan, passage of this act should be a priority for our legislative assembly.”

This strategy supports TomorrowNow – Manitoba’s Green Plan, and Manitoba’s forthcoming climate change strategy, which will recognize the vital importance of wetlands in the province.  The further protection of wetlands could potentially prevent approximately 418 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, the minister said, adding these potential emissions are equivalent to the emissions of four million passenger vehicles over 20 years.

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