By Chris Simon
The provincial government’s latest phosphorus strategy will do little to help the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan succeed, according to a member of Environmental Defence.
Last week, the Ministry of the Environment released its Phosphorus Reduction Strategy for Lake Simcoe. But the plan, which will attempt to reduce phosphorus levels in the lake by almost 40 per cent, fails to adequately curb current development practices, or even provide a thorough road map to achieve its goals, said Claire Malcolmson, Campaign Lake Simcoe Advisor at Environmental Defence.
“The urban sources of phosphorus pollution need to be controlled more vigorously, particularly when it comes to new sources of environmental stress, such as development,” she said. “The strategy identifies specific reduction goals and potential opportunities … (but) it fails to lay out a plan for actually reaching the goal.  It will only succeed if major changes are made to development practices, and if local indicators of good environmental practices and health are used to trigger the approval of new development.”
For example, water plant expansions should be dependent on a municipality’s conformity to provincial plans. That would force municipalities to quickly adopt the protection plan policies, in order to reap the financial rewards of growth and development, says Malcolmson.
Under the strategy, the amount of phosphorus entering the lake will be reduced, from 72 tons per year to 44. If the targets can be reached, water quality and the cold water fish community will be protected, said Barrie MPP Aileen Carroll.
“The lake’s all-season recreational fishery has a world-class reputation,” she said. “Protecting this valuable resource will help ensure the economic vitality of the lake and its continued enjoyment by residents and visitors alike.”
The phosphorus strategy is part of the protection plan, which marked its first anniversary in June. This plan, the first of its kind in Ontario, aims to protect the watershed, and does provide guidelines to help restore and protect the health of the area, said Environment Minister John Gerretsen.
Government action has reduced phosphorus loads from more than 100 tons per year in the 1980s to the current 72, while the province already addressed 88 of the required policies from the protection plan, he said.
“The aggressive lowering of phosphorus levels through the reduction strategy is essential to restoring the lake’s water quality and ecological health,” said Gerretsen. “Our strong actions here are an example of the work our government is doing under the Open Ontario Plan to make our province the leading clean water jurisdiction in North America.”