The province has launched a draft of its Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, calling it the “most comprehensive, water-shed-based, legislated plan in Canada.”
But environmental groups say the plan is full of holes and leaves the door open to large-scale waterfront projects.
The plan fails to control the development of waterfront communities by allowing these “massive new urban settlements” to be classified as resorts, said Campaign Lake Simcoe in a news release that is very critical of the plan.
“Projects such as the Big Bay Point mega-marina and 2,000-unit resort should not be allowed to sail through a yacht-sized loophole on a lake where cottagers will be subject to new regulation and government oversight when they seek even minor changes to their dock or boathouse.”
Campaign Lake Simcoe — a coalition of Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature and Rescue Lake Simcoe — is also concerned implementation that timelines are too long and that many policies are encouraged, not mandated and enforced.
The plan also fails to address the overall impact of recreational boating on water quality and shoreline preservation, the group says.
Jim Woodford, chairman of Science for Lake Simcoe said the plan does not deal directly with the problem of invasive species, such as zebra mussels and round gobies, or the health of plankton in the lake
“Invasive species pose as great a problem to rehabilitating Lake Simcoe as phosphorus levels but no new initiatives are planned to deal with the invasives,” Woodford said. The plan does not address the issue of plankton — the basis of life in the lake, he added.
But, the feedback is not all negative.
The Campaign for Lake Simcoe gives the province credit for outlining a phosphorous reduction strategy, requiring municipal stormwater management plans and putting measures in place to protect shorelines.
The draft protection plan follows the passage of the Lake Simcoe Act in December.
The plan establishes voluntary and mandatory measures to: — reduce excessive phosphorous levels;
— protect and rehabilitate fish habitat, wetlands and woodlands and vegetation that buffers the lake river and streams;
— manage the impacts of climate change and invasive species.
“The approach we are taking is expected to ensure the long-term health of the lake and its watershed system,” said Environment Minister John Gerretsen. “We need everyone from around the lake to participate in this and make this plan work so that future generations can continue to enjoy this wonderful resource.”
The province has committed $20 million over four years for research, monitoring and farm stewardship within the 3,500 square kilometre watershed.
This is a good start, but falls far short of the $163 million the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority estimated would be necessary to significantly reduce phosphorus loading in the lake, Woodford said.
The public can comment on the plan until March 16. View it at www.ontario.ca.