SEA struggles with funding cuts

By Charlotte MacAulay Jan 4, 2017, The Eastern Graphic

A cap of $58,000 on a portion of the province’s new Watershed Management Fund Formula will leave the Southeast Environment Association, SEA, short by $21,000.

This is a significant amount considering the environmental group, which covers an area of 731 square kilometres, the largest on PEI, has only been eligible for a piece of the provincial pie in the last couple of years.

More specifically, the remainder of the Island’s watershed groups will receive $1.09 per hectare. SEA’s cut amounts to 80 cents per hectare.

For years SEA and one other PEI group, Bedeque Bay, received federal funding, which essentially left them ineligible for provincial money. Hands were tied because the federal funding came with the caveat it could only be used for specific purposes, explained Ian Petrie, secretary of SEA’s board of directors.

“To have finally come to this point of getting provincial support and then run into yet another regulation that hurts rather than helps the area, I do find frustrating,” Mr Petrie said.

The formula will allocate 50 per cent of the funds based on size (or area managed); 25 per cent based on performance, 12.5 per cent based on leveraging (or funds raised from other sources), and 12.5 per cent based on community involvement. It will be reviewed each year and adjusted as needed based on feedback from groups and the PEI Watershed Alliance.

Fred Cheverie, executive director of the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation, SAB, was also part of the committee of watershed members involved in creating the final formula.

“The aim is to have a funding model that is clearly transparent,” Mr Cheverie said.

No one from the province’s Department of Environment was available for comment at press time. However, when the new model was announced by government last month, it was stated $1.12 million each year is distributed to watersheds across the Island, indicating there is only so much money to go around.

Mr Petrie suspects that is the reason for the funding cap.

“Every watershed group wants a little bit more money,” Mr Petrie said. “This isn’t a question of other groups not doing the important work they have always done.”

Nevertheless, SEA is dealing with two issues; under funding for years coupled with being shortchanged in the current system, said executive director Jackie Bourgeois.“There is still a ton of work that needs to be done,” she said. “From Boughton River to Murray River and all the systems in between.”

SEA’s next move is to state their case to the Department of Environment in hopes of somehow being brought up to par with other watershed groups in the province.

All the groups have three years to adapt to the new model which could increase the amount of funds government needs to dole out over time, Mr Cheverie said.

“The big thing is the documentation reported at the end of the year,” Mr Cheverie said. “More onus is on the groups to be more specific to make themselves eligible.”

He estimates about one third of the funding it takes to run SAB comes from the provincial pot.

Santina Beaton, coordinator of Morell River Management Co-op, said the new model has the potential for that group to do more.

“If we receive more money from the Watershed Management Fund the potential is there to leverage that money to receive funds from other groups whether government or non government, then we will be able to do more,” Ms Beaton said.

Whether that means stream habitat restoration, extending hours of seasonal staff or holding more community events remains to be seen.

SEA’s coverage area includes the Boughton, Cardigan, Brudenell/Georgetown, Montague-Valleyfield, Sturgeon and Murray River/Harbour watersheds.

SAB covers East Lake, Naufrage Creek, Priest Pond Creek, North Lake, Souris River, Hay River, Cross River, Cow River, Fortune River and Basin Head Creek.

Morell River Management Coop takes in the Morell River, Marie River, Midgell River, Bristol Creek, Schooner Creek, and St Peter’s River.

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January 4, 2017