Manitoba’s new Watershed Districts Act has transitioned 18 provincial conservation districts to 14 new watershed districts with boundaries based on watersheds.
Proclaimed on January 1, 2020, the Watershed Districts Act modernizes the Conservation District Program and adds flexibility for local watershed districts in the areas of board appointments and terms, calculating municipal contributions, and the handling of board contracts and agreements for water and soil projects that build watershed resiliency in a changing climate.
Watershed districts are formed as a partnership between the province and local municipalities to protect, restore and manage land and water resources on a watershed basis.
“As identified in our Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, and committed to in our 100-day Action Plan, this new model of improved watershed management strategies will improve the quality of our water in lakes, wetlands, rivers and streams, an important step towards mitigating climate change locally and globally,” announced Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen in a media statement.
The strengthening of the planning and management of watersheds also allows for agreements with Indigenous communities.
The Conservation District of Upper Assiniboine, Lake of the Prairies and Little Saskatchewan River will merge into the Assiniboine West Watershed District. Further south, the West Souris River Conservation District will move into the Souris River Watershed District. To the east, portions of the Rural Municipality of Minto-Odanah will move into the Assiniboine West, Central Assiniboine and Whitemud Watershed Districts.
Additionally, the new act will allow partnerships with non-municipal entities to enhance watershed management plan implementation; identify a consistent approach to the transition to watershed districts; and clarify watershed district board policies and procedures.
Manitoba has also announced more than $150 million for the GROW Trust and the Conservation Trust. The Conservation Trust is intended in part to help support the work of the new Watershed Districts. The GROW Trust will support Growing Outcomes in Watersheds (GROW), an approach that recognizes the ecological goods and services provided by natural areas, to be delivered by Watershed Districts. GROW also supports the overall goals of the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.