Ball's Falls. NPCA

Niagara residents are encouraged to take advantage of two grant programs offered by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) which aim to protect and restore local water quality and diverse natural habitats within the Niagara Peninsula watershed.

Applications for 2023 Restoration Grants and Water Well Decommissioning Grants are being solicited by the NPCA, a community-based, natural resource management agency that offers watershed programs and services focusing on flood and hazard management, source water protection, species protection, ecosystem restoration, community stewardship, and land management. The NPCA manages 41 conservation areas held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education.

The agency’s Restoration Program was created to enable collaboration among partners in the watershed, and to protect water quality and diverse habitats. According to NPCA’s water monitoring, Niagara’s watershed is highly degraded, with surface waters either poor or impaired.

“The Restoration Grant Program is one of several ways the NPCA works to improve the health of the Niagara Peninsula watershed’s natural features,” said Geoff Verkade, Senior Manager of Integrated Watershed Strategies, in a press release. “With eight categories, and a variety of project options ranging from the creation of wetlands and tree plantings to riparian and upland habitat restoration, we welcome private and public landowners, NGOs, nature clubs, and ‘Friends of’ groups to join us in these efforts.”

Feasible projects will be eligible for grants of up to $15,000. The application deadline is November 21, 2022. Online applications are available at https://bit.ly/3fGMSk7

In 2021, the program saw some 63,000 trees and 7,900 shrubs planted, and some 29 hectares of land reforested.

Abandoned or unused water wells, which number in the thousands within the Niagara watershed, represent a direct threat to groundwater supplies, as contaminants applied to the surface can easily flow through these open conduits and reach the water table. Decommissioning, or “plugging and sealing” abandoned water wells, is a legal, though often expensive, requirement of property owners, according to provincial regulations.

“These water wells can be a physical danger to kids and pets, and they represent a direct threat to groundwater supplies and, ultimately, our drinking water,” says Joshua Diamond, Water Quality Specialist at the Authority. “Since contaminants applied to the surface may easily flow through these open conduits and reach the water table, decommissioning an unused or abandoned water well plugs the pollution pathway and moves us forward in protecting groundwater quality.”

The NPCA Water Well Decommissioning Program provides an 80 percent grant rate, to a maximum amount of $1,000 per well, with a maximum of two wells per property. Applications received by the NPCA will be assessed individually, on a first-come, first-served basis. Funding for the program is limited, and once funds are exhausted, the program will conclude for the calendar year.

Grants are available for the decommissioning of unused water wells only. Oil wells, gas wells, beach wells, and cisterns are not eligible under this program. All work must be completed by a licensed well contractor, in accordance with Ontario Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) regulations.

An online grant application form is available at https://bit.ly/3FSAk49