Celebrating 70 years of conservation excellence

June 2024

If you’ve spent any time outdoors in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area, there’s a very good chance that you’ve visited one of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority (LRCA)’s ten Conservation Areas.

People tend to be familiar with some of our more popular spots, like Cascades, Mission Island Marsh, and Hazelwood Lake. If you like to get out on Lake Superior, you may have launched your boat at Little Trout Bay or Silver Harbour. If you’re a birder, we’d be surprised if you haven’t visited Hurkett Cove, and on-leash dog-walking are staple activities at Mills Block and Wishart.

The fishing at Cedar Falls is great, and the paddling at Hazelwood Lake is even better.

However, providing residents of the Lakehead Watershed with excellent passive recreational opportunities is only a very small part of what the LRCA has been doing for the last 70 years. The LRCA was originally established as the Neebing Valley Conservation Authority in 1954, making 2024 our 70th anniversary. Conservation Authorities are established under an Act of provincial legislature, the Conservation Authorities Act. There are 36 Authorities across the province of Ontario, and we are unique to the province. We are tasked with providing the delivery of programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development, and management of natural resources in Ontario. This includes the protection of people and property from the natural hazards of riverine flooding and erosion, which we accomplish through the administering of development regulations within our area of jurisdiction, as well as issuing flood messages as part of our flood warning system.

Speaking of our area of jurisdiction, the LRCA is one of two Authorities whose area of jurisdiction is made up of the municipal boundaries of our eight member municipalities, whereas most other Authorities in the province have jurisdictional boundaries that align with the scientific boundaries of their respective watersheds.

The LRCA’s member municipalities consist of the City of Thunder Bay, the Municipalities of Shuniah, Neebing, and Oliver Paipoonge, and the Townships of Dorion, Conmee, O’Connor, and Gillies. The LRCA’s Board of Directors is made up of one elected official from each member municipality, except for the City of Thunder Bay, whose representatives on our Board consist of three elected officials and one citizen representative, as per Subsection 2 (2) of the Conservation Authorities Act.

Over the past 70 years the LRCA has been diligent and passionate about delivering the broad range of programs and services that we have become known for, including the above-mentioned flood forecasting and warning and development regulations programs and passive recreational opportunities, as well as programs related to floodplain management, wetland protection, erosion mitigation, Source Water Protection, outdoor environmental education and nature interpretive programming, and a breadth of stewardship initiatives.

One of the achievements the LRCA is extremely proud of is the design and construction of the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway. This engineering marvel was completed in 1984 at a cost of $15 million, a project that came in under-budget and ahead of schedule. The Floodway provides riverine flood protection for the lower-Neebing River and Intercity areas; development such as the Thunder Centre and Silver City would not be possible without the existence of the Floodway.

The LRCA is also very proud to offer AODA-compliant, wheelchair accessible trails at both Mission Island Marsh and Cascades Conservation Areas, accessible kayak launches at Hurkett Cove and Hazelwood Lake Conservation Areas (with a third one coming to Little Trout Bay this summer!).

The LRCA has had the advantage of working with other supporters, members of the public, and community partners. This, along with the shared values and partnerships with the local Indigenous community also reinforces our shared connection to the land, the importance of stewardship, and the reminder that like a watershed, we are all connected through the water and the land.

Through our wonderful community partners, corporate sponsors, stakeholders and other like organizations, the LRCA is committed to our mission to lead the conservation and protection of the Lakehead Watershed for another 70 years, and beyond!

Article and photos by Ryan Mackett, Communications Manager, Lakehead Region Conservation Authority

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