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‘Stuck in a ditch’: Watershed protection group calling for equitable funding – The efficiency of a new funding formula is raising questions


by Malcolm Campbell  Febuary 11, 2017, CBC News

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-watershed-provincial-funding-formula-1.3976556

The Southeast Environmental Association says a new formula intended to create balanced funding for the province’s watershed groups may be flawed.

Members of the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance voted in late November to accept the formula for distributing provincial money.  Prior to the vote, any members of the alliance receiving federal funds for projects were prohibited from taking provincial money.

‘Stuck in a ditch’

Ian Petrie, secretary and treasurer of the Southeast Environmental Association, said this rule against provincial funds stopped his group and the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association from working on much needed projects.

Petrie said for more than a decade those two groups received federal funds under the Atlantic Coastal Action Plan, which precluded them from receiving any provincial support.

‘We just haven’t been able to do the same kind of work as other watershed groups.’- Ian Petrie

“Environment Canada was interested in a variety of important projects; climate change, septic tanks, making sure the coastline was working properly,” Petrie said. “But the work that watershed groups do, which is trying to improve fish habitat, riparian zones and so on, the federal program did not permit.”

“So we were kind of stuck in a ditch.”

A watershed moment

The move to the new formula was intended to give all the Island’s watershed groups equal access to provincial support.

Four factors are considered within the new arrangement and funds are allocated accordingly.

50 per cent of the funding is based on the size of the group’s area of service, 25 per cent is based on performance, 12.5 per cent is based on how much outside funding the group receives, and the remaining 12.5 per cent is based on community involvement.

Brudenell River

Ian Petrie, secretary and treasurer of the Southeast Environmental Association, says the previous funding arrangement has caused a backlog in the work his group does. (Southeast Environmental Association/Facebook)

Petrie said other than the size of area it is unclear how much funding his group will get based on the other factors.

“This formula is quite new,” he said. “It’s only been accepted in the last few months and you know how it’s actually going, how all of those other criteria are going to be played out, I don’t think anybody knows at this point.”

‘An issue of fairness’

Petrie says the old system of funding created a backlog of work that is necessary to the watersheds.

“We just haven’t been able to do the same kind of work as other watershed groups,” he said.

“This isn’t an argument against other watershed groups, I think they’re doing really good work. Every watershed group could benefit from having a little bit more money. If there’s one thing driving our concern here it’s an issue of fairness.”

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February 11, 2017
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