Environmental groups are applauding a federal government announcement in Barrie last week of $18 million in funding for the restoration and protection of Lake Simcoe.
Environment Minister John Baird said the money is in addition to the $12 million already allocated for the lake in last year’s budget.
That brings the federal government’s total investment to $30 million, to be allocated over five years.
The announcement is part of the government’s $93-million action plan to improve water quality.
“I am very pleased that the government has delivered on a commitment I made to work to protect Lake Simcoe’s environment,” York-Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan said. “After years of inadequate funding, the Conservative government is taking action to improve the water we drink, clean polluted waters, protect our ecosystems and ensure the sustainability of our fish resources.”
Last year, the provincial Liberal government promised to pass a Lake Simcoe Protection Act, with as yet undisclosed funding.
Other new clean water initiatives from the federal government include banning the dumping of sewage and other waste from water craft and new rules virtually banning harmful phosphates from dishwasher detergent.
That initiative was praised by Claire Malcolmson ofEnvironmental Defence, which is associated with several Lake Simcoe environmental organizations, including the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
“The news that the federal government is going to restrict the levels of phosphorus in dishwasher detergents and laundry detergents is fantastic news,” Ms Malcolmson said. “That’s the kind of initiative really only the federal government can do. It’s the kind of thing we’ve been hoping for for ages.”
The Protect and Preserve the Environment of Lake Simcoe volunteer citizens’ committee is currently studying how the previously-committed $12 million will be allocated to make recommendations to the federal environment ministry.
“It’s taken that group a really long time to get the terms of reference in place in order for them to know what to spend the money on, but they’re very close,” Ms Malcolmson said. “They’re hoping the money will be released by the federal government for the spring.”
She said she hopes the release of the second round of funding can be sped up.
Lake Simcoe provides drinking water to eight municipalities and is known for its recreation industry, which generates more than $200 million in annual revenues. The region supports farming and recreational fishing and has recently undergone significant increased urban development.