Photo courtesy of the LTVCA, flooding along the Lake Erie shoreline May 4, 2017

More concerns are being raised about pending environmental reforms in Ontario.

Environmentalists across the province have been speaking out against Schedule Six of the province’s budget bill, which critics say strips power from local conservation authorities.

Brian McDougall, general manager of the St Clair Region Conservation Authority says proposed changes to development and zoning approvals could increase the risk of flooding and erosion.

“Given that approvals are given to development that’s going to occur in floodplains, we could potentially be seeing a greater number of people and greater amount of property that is at risk being placed where it is in potential floodplains,” McDougall says. “Having permits that are not provided by the (Conservation) Authorities and are not looked at from that scientific and technical background can be pretty dangerous and could put people and properties at risk.”

Mark Peacock, CAO of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, says it boils down to a lack of understanding of what Conservation Authorities do.

“The Conservation Authority will be hamstrung in what we do and how we do it,” Peacock says. “We work on a watershed basis, we work with local communities, and we work so that all the municipalities of our watershed get together to make decisions to improve our watershed. Many of the things in this schedule take away from that almost 80 years of work that Conservation Authorities across Ontario have put into improving watersheds.”

Officials with both the Lower Thames and St Clair Region Conservation Authorities say changes to governance are welcome, but more needs to be done to continue protecting the environment.