Lake Simcoe is at a tipping point. Behind the clutter and details, this process is about ensuring that our human activities do no further damage, and that we allow the lake that we have broken to heal itself.
Innisfil council has loads of time to make its concerns clear to the province. Yet their public complaint, as an article in last week’s Scope points out, is that the final documents may be somewhat rushed and lacking. The province aims to introduce the Act during the first of three readings in June 2008. Further public consultation will probably take place in the fall. The third reading and vote should take place before the end of 2008.
If the council were truly interested in this process, a representative would have attended the Lake Simcoe Protection Act events which Campaign Lake Simcoe hosted, and invited the mayor to, last summer – when Premier Dalton McGuinty dropped in – and in December.
The “mood of moratorium that appears to pervade the public,” surely results from municipalities and developers building too much, too fast. Who anticipated 10 years ago that little Alcona would imitate Vaughan, Newmarket, and every other sprawling suburb in Southern Ontario? Who can blame the public for being skeptical about the municipality’s judgment on development?
The development community, and now some municipalities, claim that new development doesn’t hurt the lake, but the Lake Simcoe Region’s Conservation Authority’s scientific evidence clearly says otherwise. Under the committed future growth scenario, 25 per cent more phosphorus is expected to enter the lake, according to the LSRCA’s Assimilative Capacity Study.
No one would argue that there are larger sources of phosphorus pollution, such as old or non-existent stormwater management facilities, than new development or sewage treatment plants. But practically speaking, the latter are the low hanging fruit, and easier to control quickly. If Council had read what the province’s Lake Simcoe scientific advisory committee was producing (it’s on the Ministry of the Environment website) they would know that significant progress has been made in examining atmospheric sources of phosphorus, and other large sources. Perhaps if Innisfil were more proactive with their own infrastructure, the public and the province would not have stepped in the way they have.
Innisfil creeks got D’s on the LSRCA’s 2008 watershed report card in the areas of streamside vegetation and stormwater management.
Innisfil should accept that their Wild West days of development are over, and do everything it can to protect the natural feature that draws people to Innisfil in the first place, the lake.
Claire Malcolmson, Campaign Lake Simcoe and Environmental Defence