GRCA board approves 2016 budget

Cambridge - The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) will spend about $31 million this year on programs that protect water quality, reduce flood damages, protect natural areas, support responsible development and provide outdoor recreation and environmental education.

The budget was approved by the GRCA board on Friday, February 26, 2016. The board is made up of 26 members appointed by the municipalities in the Grand River watershed.

Municipalities will contribute about $11.8 million to the GRCA this year, about 38 per cent of the total budget. The municipal levy portion is up about 2.5 per cent this year to $10.8 million. That works out to about $10.49 per resident.

Government grants, primarily from the province, are worth about $3.4 million, representing about 11 per cent of the budget. Included in this amount are federal grants of more than $300,000 the GRCA is receiving through the Canada 150 Infrastructure Program.

Finally, the GRCA generates just under $15 million, or about 47 per cent, of its own revenue through revenue sources such as camping fees, park admissions, nature centre programs, hydro sales, property rentals, tree sales, planning permits, and donations raised by the Grand River Conservation Foundation (GRCF).

Budget Highlights:

• Canada 150 Infrastructure Program Grants: The GRCA is receiving grants totalling $316,750 from the federal government, which will support significant improvements to the Apps’ Mill Nature Centre in the County of Brant, as well as the Kay Marston Pavilion at the Elora Gorge Conversation Area. The grants will also contribute to the restoration of the FWR Dickson Nature Trail and Boardwalk just south of Cambridge. The GRCF is expected to assist with a portion of the GRCA’s contribution to these projects.

• Emerald Ash Borer: About $400,000 will be spent this year responding to damage caused by the invasive insect. Most of the money will go to remove hazardous trees in the areas where the infestation is the highest. Some money will also be spent on a continuing program to treat about 200 trees against the bug.

• Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI): The GRCA has been granted a total of $120,000 through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association from the GLASI Education and Outreach Component funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through Growing Forward 2. Through education and outreach, this initiative aims to make measurable improvements to soil health, water quality, and pollinator health by supporting and accelerating the adoption of Best Management Practices on agriculture lands within the GLASI Target Area of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds and the southeast shores of Lake Huron watershed. The 2016 portion of this grant is approximately $90,000.

• Rural Water Quality Program: About $800,000 will be available to farmers to help them undertake projects to protect water quality on their land including tree planting, erection of fences along water courses, construction of manure storage tanks and other projects. The money comes from municipalities within the Grand River watershed, while the GRCA manages the program.

• Wastewater Optimization Project: This is a three-year project financed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to help municipalities improve the operation of their wastewater treatment plants. The result is cleaner effluent coming out of the plants, which has a positive impact on the health of the river system and Lake Erie. Based on the outcome of the work in the Grand River watershed, the program may be expanded across the province. The total cost of the project is $363,000 of which $125,000 is allocated for 2016.

Water Control Structures:

• Brantford dike work: About $210,000 will be spent on the design of a concrete slab toe repair and tender documents, as well as the repair of a portion of the earthen dyke slope.

• Cambridge dike work: This project will include the rehabilitation of storm water pumps, and the design of the river wall repair and tender documents. The cost is estimated at $180,000.

• Bridgeport dike work: This project will include a seepage analysis and remediation study and management of vegetation. The cost is estimated at $100,000.

• Caledonia & Dunnville Dams: About $50,000 will be spent to facilitate replacement of stop logs at each dam.

• Conestogo Dam: About $185,000 will be spent to review the gate electrical system, to do an analysis of the embankment freeboard requirements and purchase a backup trailer generator.

• Guelph, Shand, Woolwich and Laurel dams: About $180,000 will be spent to upgrade backup generators and replace fuel systems to meet current code requirements.

• Laurel Creek and Woolwich Dam safety studies: About $150,000 will be spent on the completion of a safety study of Laurel Creek Dam, which was built in 1968 and to update the Woolwich Dam safety study completed in 2004. The GRCA routinely carries out these studies to identify any areas where the dam has to be improved or modified to meet current safety standards.

• Guelph Dam Gate inspection and Woolwich Dam Gate Maintenance: About $50,000 will spent to inspect one gate at Guelph Dam and develop specifications and tender documents for the painting and rehabilitation of the gates at Woolwich Dam.

• Public Safety and Worker Safety around Dams: About $70,000 will be spent on safety railings and fencing at GRCA dams.

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