Public Consultation - Residents provide mixed feedback on Regional Wetland and Water Plan
On September 21, the MRC du Pontiac organized a public consultation for the Regional Wetland and Water Plan. The Ministry of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change made wetlands a priority, requiring MRCs to create a plan that would ensure net zero loss of wetlands.
The Ministry of the Environment defines wetlands are all sites saturated with water or flooded for a period long enough to influence the nature of the soil or the composition of the vegetation.
CREDDO was hired by the MRC du Pontiac to create the plan in 2020. Since then, there have been many consultations and surveys on the subject. They found that the main concerns of Pontiac residents were maintaining and enhancing biodiversity, enforcing regulations and water quality.
The plan concerns private lands and does not include crown land, already protected land, or areas owned by hydro Quebec. The plan highlights the MRCs plans to protect, create, and restore wetlands as well as ensure sustainable use.
These plans will prohibit the destruction of wetlands on private property, as well as impose restrictions on landowners on how they can develop their property.
Many landowners were concerned about the accuracy as well as the lack of detail that showed the wetlands and water environments targeted by the plan. Many residents said it was difficult to know if their property was targeted while others noted that parts of their property were considered wetlands on the map but were not actually wetlands.
The MRC acknowledged that there needs to be a better map. They plan to update and fix the map. They responded that if a landowner believes a map is wrong about their property, they will need to contact their municipality and get a certified biologist to certify that their land is not a wetland.
Landowners were also frustrated that they would have to prove their land is not a wetland instead of the MRC proving that their land is a wetland. These landowners also expressed frustration that they would not be able to develop their property that is considered wetlands. The MRC reminds residents that even before the plan was created, all work on wetlands needs to be approved by the ministry of the environment.
Farmers were concerned that the new plan would affect their operations and their business. A participant stated that due to improper drainage due to the construction of the bike path, ditches flooding, poor water management, and increased boating tourism a large section of his land is flooded and now considered wetland. The presenter noted that property owners are permitted to manage water on the property through their municipality.
One participant, an environmental activist, stated they were in favor of the plan because the regulations will have a positive impact on the environment and help with the overheating of water in the region. Another participant wanted to know how the MRC will ensure that the regulations are adhered to. The presenter said they plan to follow up with municipalities.
The Regional Wetland and Water Plan must now be approved by the Council of Mayors before it is submitted in October.