Watershed District set to grow

After almost a year of operation, the Assiniboine West Watershed District (AWWD) will soon get a bit larger.  At their regular meeting last week, the R.M. of Wallace-Woodworth Council reviewed a proposal that would see two additional municipalities added to the current 19. 

 AWWD General Manager Ryan Canart explained that both the R.M. of Elton and R.M. of Whitehead expressed a desire to join, but must first receive the blessing of the present membership.

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“In terms of land, it’s a very small portion of the R.M. of Elton which will fall within the watershed,” Canart said.  “It’s a bit larger in (the R.M. of) Whitehead.”  Whitehead will contribute $4,980 per year and Elton $845.  The local funds are matched 3 to 1 by the province, which Canart said could amount to approximately $20,000 in additional money to pay for programming.  Elton and Whitehead will each have one representative on the Lower Little Saskatchewan River Sub-District Board, while Whitehead will also have two seats on the Oak River Sub-District Board. 

Coun. Mark Humphries, who represents Wallace-Woodworth on the Arrow River Sub-District Board, took issue with this, stating that his municipality is one of the largest monetary contributors, but lacks corresponding representation in its decision-making.  He questioned whether the current board configuration is fair and equitable.  

“I did voice that we’re one of the biggest payers into that pot, but haven’t got a seat around the table,” he said.  “It was noted, but obviously nothing came of it.”

During the discussion, Chief Administrative Officer Garth Mitchell added some context.  He stated that Wallace-Woodworth has four board members yet provides a much larger sum, $36,000 per year, towards the AWWD’s operating budget. 

Humphries suggested that some of the watershed district’s programming is of greater benefit to urban areas than it is to rural, yet the latter funds the bulk of it. 

"Virden will benefit the most from some of the things that we're doing, but for a while they were one of the smallest payers," he said.

Deputy Reeve Val Caldwell thought it was prudent to keep the issues of funding and board representation separate.  She and Humphries were the sole dissenters when it came time to vote on letting the newcomers in, which passed by a 5-2 margin. Council decided to continue the dialogue regarding securing more proportional board representation. 

The approval process should be completed in early 2021.   

The Assiniboine River Watershed District was formed Jan. 1, 2020 from the Amalgamation of the Lake of the Prairies Conservation District, the Little Saskatchewan River Conservation District and the Upper Assiniboine River Conservation District, as a result of provincial legislation modernizing Manitoba’s natural resource conservation policy. 

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