In 2011, the province of PEI approached watershed groups with the premise of amalgamating groups into larger entities for the purpose of simplifying the Watershed Management Fund (WMF) process, as well as easing the burden on the government regarding permits, auditing etc. Additionally, the province wanted the groups to ‘take in’ more of the island to ensure all of PEI was covered under a watershed group. This premise was strongly encouraged, and watershed groups along the Hillsborough River met to discuss the feasibility of joining together.
The Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group, PEI Trappers Assoc. (Pisquid), Hillsborough River Association, and Wright’s Creek Watershed Committee met several times to decide what was in the best interest of the groups. The government proposed the 4 groups amalgamate to form one group, with financial incentive up and over the WMF. These 4 groups have distinct identities, tied to their area along the Hillsborough, make-up of communities, priorities, and history. They were not in favour of true amalgamation, and agreed on the idea of forming a cooperative, where each group has a voice and a vote.
Representatives from the province and all 4 groups met with a member of the PEI Cooperatives Council; these meetings saw the hashing out of articles of incorporation, overarching goals, and the name of the co-op itself. The Hillsborough Area Watershed Co-op (HAWC) was formed. 2 members of each of the 4 groups has a seat on the board, and the group meets semi-annually to discuss funding and any issues pressing to the groups.
The PEI Watershed Management Fund is applied for, and received by HAWC, who will also continue to apply for external funding for projects benefiting the groups as a whole.