A Watershed Year in Review: RRCA Looks Back at 2023

A Watershed Year in Review: RRCA Looks Back at 2023
From left, RRCA's field operations team, administration, management, watershed management team, and communications and stewardship team.


Looking back on its accomplishments in 2023 – its 60th year providing community-led, watershed-based natural resource management – the Raisin Region Conservation Authority’s (RRCA) Board of Directors recognizes the importance of its government, corporate, and community partnerships.

“Solid, productive partnerships, especially with our five member municipalities, is a prime result of RRCA’s community-led approach to conservation,” says RRCA Board of Directors Chair and South Glengarry Deputy Mayor, Martin Lang. “By protecting our homes, businesses, and public places from natural hazards like flooding and erosion, protecting municipal sources of drinking water, providing property owners with land stewardship opportunities, and offering us the chance to step into nature at its Conservation Areas, our communities and our local environment greatly benefit from the RRCA’s work year after year.”

In 2023, the RRCA, one of Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities, supported safe and sustainable development in its jurisdiction by reviewing and providing expert comments on 337 permit applications, Planning Act files and property inquiries. It released six flood messages through its Flood Forecasting and Warning program, which monitors precipitation, water levels, and other conditions to provide advance notice to municipalities when levels could rise above normal levels. This year, no messages needed to be issued locally by the RRCA for Ontario’s Low Water Response program, which assists the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in managing water during a drought.

Several improvements were made to some of the RRCA’s eight local water control structures, including updates to the Fly Creek Flood Control pumping station in Cornwall, and upgrading to a satellite data telemetry system at Kenyon Dam in North Glengarry.

Sources of drinking water for the Raisin-South Nation Source Protection Area’s 25 drinking water systems continued to be protected from contamination and overuse through the area’s Source Protection Plan. This year, the local Source Protection Committee is completing a comprehensive review of the Plan and revising its policies under the direction of the Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to best protect local drinking water sources.

Through a renewed partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), RRCA’s Cooper Marsh Conservation Area in South Glengarry benefitted from major improvements to the system of ring dykes and pumps that maintain ideal wetland conditions at the Marsh. Invasive buckthorn was also removed from 11 acres at the Marsh and four public workshops – including a World Wetlands Day celebration co-hosted with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne – were offered through the Cooper Marsh Biodiversity Project. This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, a Government of Canada’s Department of Environment and Climate Change program in partnership with Conservation Ontario. Funding was also awarded by Ontario Power Generation.

A long-standing education partnership with the River Institute was also renewed in 2023, which saw the Institute’s award-winning education team offer a variety of programs at Cooper Marsh.

The RRCA also added an additional 10 acres to Cooper Marsh by purchasing an adjacent wetland property thanks to the financial support of the Canada Nature Fund, a Government of Canada’s Department of Environment and Climate Change program in partnership with Conservation Ontario, and Ducks Unlimited Canada. International contributors included Ducks Unlimited Inc., the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants administered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as state agencies through the Fall Flights Initiative.

At Gray’s Creek Conservation Area, the RRCA undertook forest management operations to selectively remove hazardous and dead or dying trees along the nature trail system. The trees are set to be replaced by various native species in 2024. Thanks to funding from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, the RRCA also launched a self-guided arboretum tour at Gray’s Creek.

At Charlottenburgh Park, campground lots received upgraded amperages and new water lines. This year, the Park was voted the area’s favourite campground for the fifth consecutive year in a poll by local newspaper The Standard-Freeholder.

Refreshed roadside property signs were also unveiled at all three Conservation Areas.

Landowner stewardship projects in 2023 included the planting of 63,500 trees on public and private property, adding to the 1.1 million trees planted locally since 1994.

Through the ALUS Ontario East program, which helps farmers and ranchers establish and maintain nature-based solutions on their land, 37 stewardship projects by 21 participants took place on 274 acres.

The RRCA also offered a Backyard Conservation Project, which provided 50 property owners with the resources, materials, and advice to naturalize areas in their grounds and shorelines. The project received funding support from the Government of Ontario. Views expressed are those of the RRCA and do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.

RRCA’s signature community event, the Raisin River Canoe Race, also celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, with the largest turnout on record, with 485 paddlers in 290 boats registered in the springtime event. Tree giveaway events were also held in each of the RRCA’s member municipalities.

“All these 2023 accomplishments would not have been possible without the hard work and expertise of our staff,” says Martin Lang.

“This year, our team continued to serve our watersheds’ communities with exemplary dedication. I’m proud of our accomplishments,” says RRCA General Manager, Richard Pilon. “Our lineup of engineers, biologists, planners, technicians, administration

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