Several local organizations are pleased with the final version of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.
Last week, the provincial government announced the final version of the plan, which is intended to restore the health and viability of the lake’s watershed. The plan supports immediate action to reduce excessive phosphorus in the lake, and attempts to target invasive species and climate change.
“By acting now to implement the plan, we are ensuring the long-term protection of the lake and its watershed for generations to come,” said Environment Minister John Gerretsen.
As part of the plan, a phosphorus reduction strategy will help lower the amount entering the lake through sewage treatment plants, watershed runoff, and air particles deposited by rain or wind to 44 tons per year. About 67 tons are currently emitted into the lake annually.
A dissolved oxygen target of seven milligrams per litre will help restore a self-sustaining coldwater fishery in the lake, while key groundwater and natural heritage features will be required to maintain a minimum 40 per cent high quality natural vegetative cover within in the watershed.
Others were optimistic about the potential success of the plan.
“The province has worked diligently on this plan and consulted extensively with the public and stakeholder groups throughout the watershed,” said Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority board chair Virginia Hackson. “We applaud the effort and determination it took to bring (this) to fruition.”
While generally pleased with the plan, other environmental groups worry about its feasibility.
“Concentrating population growth in the area’s largest centres makes good planning sense, particularly in Barrie, but opening up new areas for residential development, and paving over prime agricultural lands to create new employment nodes in unserviced areas is definitely a step backwards,” said Claire Malcolmson, coordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe for Environmental Defence, referring to the Simcoe Area: A Strategic Vision for Growth plan released by the provincial government Thursday.
She says the Vision for Growth could overrule the protection plan, putting the lake’s health at risk.
“We always knew that Places to Grow and the Lake Simcoe Protection Act were at odds because saving the lake requires not paving massive areas of the watershed,” said Malcolmson. “Putting more jobs and housing in Barrie at least follows Places to Grow, and supports compact development. We hope that the new development proposed in this announcement will not increase the phosphorus loads from sewage treatment plants in the watershed. The Act is supposed to cap those sources of pollution, but now I’m not sure that will be possible. The province can still do the right thing and save agricultural land in Simcoe.”