The Government of Manitoba has mandated that as of January 1, 2020, the Conservation Districts (CD) will become known as Watershed Districts. The area now known as Turtle Mountain Conservation District (TMCD) was initially formed on May 16, 1973 as the Turtle Mountain Resource Conservation District however, it was officially established as the Turtle Mountain Conservation District #4 under the Conservation Districts Act on January 1, 1978, forming on municipal boundaries. The decision to follow municipal boundaries ultimately came down to the municipal members at the time. In 2004, the District transitioned to partial watershed boundaries when its western border became the Souris River.
There are currently 18 CD’s in Manitoba that will evolve to form 14 Watershed Districts based on watershed boundaries. The Turtle Mountain Conservation District and West Souris River Conservation District (WSRCD) will merge to form the Souris River Watershed District (SRWD) effective January 1, 2020. “Along with the name change there will be altered boundaries. The new boundary for the SRWD will include the East Souris River Watershed where its eastern boundary wavers along HWY #10, encompasses the Town of Boissevain, the Elgin Creek subwatershed, the Town of Souris and over towards Kola and the Saskatchewan border. The TMCD ends up being split as we will lose the Pembina River subwatersheds. Part of the east side of the Municipality of Boissevain-Morton and all of Killarney-Turtle Mountain Municipality will transition as they will merge with Pembina Valley Conservation District to form the Pembina Valley Watershed District.” said Yasemin Keeler, TMCD Manager.
Nine member municipalities have passed a resolution to be part of the SRWD, including Boissevain-Morton, Deloraine-Winchester, Brenda-Waskada, Grassland, Souris-Glenwood, Two Borders and the Rural Municipalities of Pipestone, Sifton and Wallace-Woodworth.
A transition team has been formed to work through the merge. This team includes three members each from the TMCD and WSRCD. “They are working to make this as smooth a transition as possible and allow the new board to be ready to go with recommendations the start of 2020. Offices in Deloraine and Reston will remain. Programming is very similar between the two Districts and I foresee the type of programming we offer continuing however the cost-sharing may change. The SRWD will have six subdistricts within the new District that will allow the Board to be comprised of 8 members. With the new Watershed District regulations, Districts will now have the opportunity to have two members at large for a potential ten member board as well as work with First Nations. This was something that was missing under the current Conservation District Act that we will now have the opportunity to partner and appoint First Nations under the new Watershed Districts Act,” added Keeler.
There will be a total of 40 subdistrict member appointments that are made by the municipality, including either one councilor and one ratepayer or two ratepayers based on the square kilometers of the subwatershed in the municipality. Funding from the Province falls under the Department of Sustainable Development. The municipal partners are levied based on the current land assessment values. The province matches the municipal levy based on a 3:1 ratio - for every $1 the municipality provides; the province contributes $3. “The budget is not yet confirmed, but we’re looking at an approximate budget of $630,000 with the addition of external funding that’s brought in each year. Both CDs are very good at obtaining external funding and are able to access different pots of funds not otherwise accessed by municipalities,” concluded Keeler.