Mason talks new role as MVCA chair

CARP – Last week West Carleton Online broke the news Carp environmental leader Janet Mason was named chair of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA).

This week the busy environmentalist took some time to tell West Carleton Online what she expects out of the new role and the direction the MVCA will take in 2019.

Mason, who is also chair of the Friends of the Carp Hills can regularly be found addressing environmental concerns, especially as they relate to the West Carleton and Carp area.

Mason moves from the MVCA vice chair position to the chair position for 2019.

“I am honoured to be serving as Chair of MVCA and take seriously its responsibility for sustainable water management especially in changing times,” Mason said in an email interview. “MVCA’s data confirm that the watershed is feeling the effects of climate change, which is causing weather extremes – drought one year and floods the next. This makes it difficult to predict and manage water flows in the Mississippi River and its lake system for recreation, fish spawning, and drinking water. High temperatures sustained over a longer time period are causing warmer surface water temperatures, which means increased risk for algal blooms, invasive species, and changes in fish habitat. In addition, rural municipalities are growing, increasing pressure on drinking water, development of wetlands, and managing storm water runoff.  MVCA also has a brand-new general manager, who assumed the role in late February, and board turnover of about 50 per cent. So, lots of change and opportunity, to which I will be devoting more of my time.”

With all those issues on the horizon, budgets are always a top concern for any organization. The MVCA is focusing on repairing infrastructure over the next several years.

“This may not sound exciting, but the 2019 MVCA board committed to a 10-year capital expenditure plan to repair and replace many of its aging dams,” Mason said. “The dams are critical infrastructure for managing water levels and water flow.”

In West Carleton, the focus will be on Constance Creek and the Carp River.

In West Carleton, we will conduct stream watch assessments of Constance Creek and of three tributaries of the Carp River,” Mason said. “We will also continue to update floodplain maps to reflect changing conditions. We have also committed to stewardship initiatives with a focus on Poole Creek in 2019 and on tree giveaways in partnership with lake associations to improve shoreline naturalization. “

One of the exciting projects coming up for the MVCA is a ‘living classroom’ focusing on the Carp Rive.

“One project that I’ve been personally involved in is development of the Carp River Living Classroom at the restoration site along Terry Fox Drive between the Queensway and Richardson Side Road,” Mason said. “This is a donor-funded project that we’ll be talking more about this in the spring so stay tuned.”

Larger, long-term plans are also on the MVCA agenda.

“MVCA has been working on an Integrated Watershed Management Plan for the Mississippi River,” Mason said. “This will continue with broad stakeholder input into how to address socio-economic and environmental issues that affect the watershed on a watershed-wide basis.”

Mason says the new board has an equal amount of new blood and experience.

“The 2019 board is about 50/50 returning versus new board members, which means we can rely on experienced members for guidance with opportunities for new ideas and approaches to emerge from the new mix of members, old and new,” Mason said.