Ontario Government Supports Rural Infrastructure

Archived Release

Ontario Government Supports Rural Infrastructure

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Finalizes New Municipal Drainage Funding Program LISTOWEL, ON, Sept. 22 - The Ontario government is building prosperity in rural Ontario through a new infrastructure program, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky announced today. "Our government understands that a strong rural Ontario is vital to our province's economic prosperity," said Dombrowsky. "That is why we have listened to rural Ontario and developed a new program that will help agricultural landowners and rural municipalities. Our program will strengthen their communities by contributing to the costs of drainage infrastructure." The minister unveiled details of the new $6 million Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program (ADIP) at the 2005 International Plowing Match and Rural Exposition. The new program includes better defined funding criteria which will maximize the use of taxpayers' dollars by: - Providing grants to agricultural landowners for up to one third of the costs for new drain construction or improvement projects - Covering up to two-thirds of the costs for this work in Northern Ontario - Providing grants to municipalities to cover one half of the cost of employing a drainage superintendent - Clarifying what parts of a drainage project are eligible for grants. "Drainage infrastructure is extremely important in rural areas to help reduce flooding, crop and property damage, and improve safety," said Bill Vrebosch, Chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. "We are pleased that the province listened to our concerns, and is investing in our communities." The ministry consulted extensively with stakeholders to ensure the new program meets their needs and will be sending municipalities more information on program details and application deadlines for this fiscal year. During the fall, ministry staff will be hosting several meetings across the province with municipalities and representatives of the drainage industry to provide details of the ADIP, answer questions and distribute application forms. The ministry typically pays grants on approximately 250 drain construction/improvement projects and approximately 1500 maintenance projects annually, involving thousands of agricultural properties. "We have worked with farmers and rural municipalities to provide new solutions for enhancing rural infrastructure," said Dombrowsky. Disponible en français www.OMAFRA.gov.on.ca www.ontarioconserves.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- AGRICULTURAL DRAINAGE INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM The Drainage Act The Drainage Act provides for the construction and management of many of the communal drainage systems in rural Ontario. The local municipality is responsible for the design, construction, and maintenance of drainage systems located within their boundaries and the cost of work is assessed to the landowners in the watershed of the drain. Because Ontario typically receives more rainfall than needed for crop growth, municipal drainage systems are vital to the overall competitiveness of the agriculture sector in the province. They reduce flooding, crop and property damage, and improve safety. They are as important to rural Ontario as storm sewers are to urban areas. To assist with drainage systems, the ministry typically pays grants on approximately 250 drain construction/improvement projects and approximately 1,500 maintenance projects annually, involving thousands of agricultural properties. Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program The government has finalized the $6 million Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program (ADIP) under the Drainage Act to encourage the development of agricultural land in an environmentally responsible manner. The program provides grants to agricultural landowners for up to one third of the costs for new drain construction or improvement projects, covering up to two- thirds of the costs for this same work in Northern Ontario. ADIP also provides grants to municipalities to cover one half of the cost of employing a drainage superintendent. New Administrative Policies Sections 85 to 90 of the Drainage Act allow the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to provide grants for various activities conducted under the act. These sections provide general direction on grant eligibility based on type of work, land use and cost components. They also detail the grant rates and provide direction on the collection and distribution of grants. Sections 85 and 87 state that the provision of grants is not an obligation, but grants are provided at the discretion of the minister. The new ADIP policies are intended to ensure that public funds are being used effectively, and to supplement the requirements already specified in the Drainage Act. The policies are intended to provide agricultural landowners, municipalities and drainage practitioners with more specific direction on grant eligibility by: - Clarifying the agricultural lands that will be eligible for grant - Clarifying the components of a drainage project that are eligible for grant - Identifying the types of allowances that will be eligible for grants - Specifying the content of an "engineering report" - Identifying the components of preliminary engineering report that are eligible for grant - Specifying how the ministry will allocate grant funding for municipal drain maintenance - Identifying the eligible grant costs for work by a municipal drainage superintendent. The ministry will use these policies as the basis for making decisions on the payment of grants under the Drainage Act. Prior to finalizing the details of the program, the ministry conducted numerous consultations with stakeholders, including posting the proposed protocols on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. All comments received during consultations were carefully considered during final development of the ADIP. The new policies are posted on the ministry website at www.omafra.gov.on.ca. Program Administration The Drainage Act provides a process for landowners to address drainage problems. Sections 85 to 90 of the act allow the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to provide grants for various activities under the act, at her discretion. The act provides general direction on grant eligibility based on the type of drainage work being undertaken, the type of land use, and components of the project. Information Meetings A series of information meetings will be held to provide details of the ADIP to municipalities and representatives of the drainage industry. Meetings will be held at: Location Date/Time Location Date/Time ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Brantford September 27, 2005 Chatham October 3, 2005 Wingham September 28, 2005 New Liskeard October 12, 2005 Lindsay September 29, 2005 Sudbury (Bilingual October 13, 2005 session) Kemptville September 30, 2005 Fort Frances October 18, 2005 Casselman September 30, 2005 Guelph October 19, 2005 (French session) Contact: Sid Vander Veen Drainage Coordinator 519-826-3552 sid.vanderveen@omafra.gov.on.ca Disponible en français www.omafra.gov.on.caFor further information: Kelly Synnott, Minister's Office, (416) 326-6439