Toronto—Environmental groups are pleased with the Minister of the Environment John Gerretsen’s launch of a strategy to protect Lake Simcoe, including most importantly a new regulation to cap phosphorus emissions from Lake Simcoe’s sewage treatment plants, pending adoption of the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act. 
“This is a positive first step in the effort to save the Lake.  It’s now possible to at least imagine Lake Simcoe returning to its natural state,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “This regulation is not a substitute for the strongest possible Lake Simcoe Protection Act, but needs to be seen as a cornerstone for such an effort.”
Premier McGuinty, at the Lake Simcoe Summit in Barrie on July 6, 2007, committed to stand with the Lake Simcoe community  to make sure Lake Simcoe is healthy for generations to come and to “raise the bar” on sewage treatment standards and set strict limits on other pollutants.  Campaign Lake Simcoe will be releasing its seven principles for a Lake Simcoe Protection Act at a holiday reception to highlight the dangers faced by Lake Simcoe at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto on Monday, December 10, 2007.
A critical focus for debate around Lake Simcoe has been whether a controversial 2,000 unit resort development, with a 1,000 slip mega-marina, 80,000 square foot convention centre, recreation centre, theatre and commercial area in Big Bay Point would be subject to the new Act.  The developer launched lawsuits against opponents of the development totaling more than $85 million and failed to notify First Nations about their interests on the site (the subject of a March, 2008 court hearing).  An Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing reviewing the project wrapped up on November 14, with fisheries, endangered species and water quality experts calling on the province to halt the development.  Ontario’s foremost water quality expert laid down for the OMB a new marker for protecting Lake Simcoe: that phosphorus levels must be cut in half, to 35 tonnes, to allow the Lake to recover from years of degradation.
Today’s regulation specifically targets the Big Bay Point development and others in Simcoe County and guarantees they will be reviewed under the new standards.
“This is a great first step by the Ministry of the Environment to ensure that its own Provincial Water Quality Objectives are met for phosphorus loading. The availability of phosphorus from sewage effluent affects every living organism in the food chain and it’s about time that we stop the damage to Lake Simcoe’s ecosystem,” said Natalie Helferty, Director of Conservation Policy for Ontario Nature.
 “Finally, someone has looked at our analysis of phosphorus and other contaminant loading on Lake Simcoe and come to the right conclusion: the Lake is in trouble and needs strong, immediate action,” said Robert Eisenberg, a Co-Chair of Campaign Lake Simcoe.
 “Today’s announcement of a regulation means we can stop running around the County putting out urban sprawl wildfires,” said David Donnelly, counsel to Environmental Defence and a number of citizens groups around the Lake fighting new developments.  “Today the McGuinty government dipped its toe in the waters of the campaign to save Lake Simcoe, now it’s time to take the plunge.  But if the eventual Act permits mega-marinas and population centres of 5,000 people outside approved urban areas, you’ll know developers and lobbyists have won in the end.”
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280 -9521 (cell)