Will Niagara ever have a focused and effective Conservation Authority? by Dennis Edell and Dr. John Bacher

A Letter to the Editor:

Thorold News
February 19, 2019

Will Niagara ever have a focused and effective Conservation Authority?
Letter to the Editor
Dennis Edell and Dr. John Bacher

Stock image

ThoroldNews received the following letter to the editor from Dennis Edell, chair of the Niagara Chapter Trout Unlimited Canada and John Bacher, chair of the Niagara Restoration Council:

Last week, the alleged management of the Niagara Conservation Authority fired Stuart McPherson, the agency’s last resident ecosystem restoration expert. Mr. McPherson was uniquely qualified as a water quality expert, with knowledge of the science and familiarity with the issues surrounding the management of Niagara’s watersheds. This action was approved by the interim Board of Directors, acting without the advice of a qualified CAO.

According to Conservation Ontario, “Conservation Authorities are local, watershed management agencies that deliver services and programs that protect and manage water and other natural resources in partnership with government, landowners and other organizations.” Unfortunately NPCA’s action not only ignores this mission, but it abdicates their responsibility in this regard.

As noted in the Ontario Auditor General’s report, the NPCA has not done any work on improving water quality since it suspended its restoration program in July 2017. In May 2018, eight months after suspending the Water Quality Improvement Program, the board approved draft terms of reference for a new restoration grant and in August 2018 began accepting applications. A few months later the management team cancelled this same program. Such is the disarray at the NPCA that shows no signs of abating.

The Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada and the Niagara Restoration Council work together to restore and protect the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek, Niagara’s major cold water resource that flows from Pelham through Thorold and St. Catharines into Lake Ontario. This partnership includes stream restoration in Short Hills Park and a Landowner Stewardship program to address the 80 per cent of the stream that flows through private lands.

Prior to 2017, the NPCA was a primary local source of expertise and support for these projects. With the firing of restoration staff, the cancelling of a restoration grant program and now the firing of one of the last key restoration resource persons, NPCA management has confirmed the low priority they assign to programs for improving Niagara’s water quality and aquatic health. This is the same important work that will help mitigate the recent unusual storm surge and flooding events caused by climate change.

With the old Board of Directors voted out and the appointment of a new interim board, there was reason to hope that the NPCA would return to its mission. Given the current state of flux at the NPCA and the critical comments from Ontario’s Auditor General’s report, it is frankly bewildering to try and understand why this new board would sanction the loss of a valuable employee, especially when the recommendation came from an interim and unqualified management team. Will Niagara ever have a focused and effective Conservation Authority?

  • Dennis Edell is Chair of the Niagara Chapter Trout Unlimited Canada: tucniagara@gmail.com
  • John Bacher is Chair of the Niagara Restoration Council: pals@becon.org