This is a guest blog by Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
Ontario’s Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan is one the best watershed policies in Canada. It’s a model so good that it was used to create Ontario’s Great Lakes Protection Act. The plan is leading the way for reducing stormwater impacts in a high-urban growth context, using low impact development techniques and adaptive watershed management.
As global climate change impacts grow, algae blooms and flooding will get worse in many water bodies Lake Simcoe’s Protection Plan offers a model for reducing nutrients and contaminants and protecting and restoring the watershed’s flood-absorbing wetlands and forests. It’s a hard-fought model worthy of protection.
But the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is concerned that the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP) could be weakened in 2021. That’s why we are asking water protectors across Ontario and the rest of Canada to help us Protect Our Plan.
The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is up for statutory review by the Province of Ontario. The public consultation period ends March 3, 2021, and the province says that by the summer, amendments to the plan will be made. We worry that changes made could weaken the effectiveness of the plan just when it needs to be implemented.
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and its 26 member groups are campaigning to Protect Our Plan, urging the province to leave the plan’s targets and objectives alone, and focus on the plan’s implementation.
Here’s what the Ontario government should focus on
- Improve water quality by reducing phosphorus loads to the lake to 44 tonnes per year, as soon as possible, from urban and agricultural areas, and from aggregate and construction sites.
- Support a healthy environment around the lake and reduce flooding impacts by protecting 40 per cent of the watershed area’s forests and wetlands.
If enough people support excellent watershed protection, it will be possible to raise the bar for watershed health in Ontario. Groups and organizations can support strong watershed protection by signing on to our Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review priorities, and individuals can sign our petition and/or use our template to send a letter to their MPP.
Lake Simcoe is an hour’s drive north of Toronto. Its watershed population of nearly 500,000 includes the communities of Barrie, Orillia, Bradford, Newmarket, Orillia, Sutton and Beaverton. The watershed/drainage basin is 3,400 square kilometres, about five times the size of the lake itself, and is between the GTA’s Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt, and cottage country to the north. The watershed is under intense development pressure, with its population is projected to double by 2051.
It’s practically impossible to imagine today that the Lake Simcoe Protection Act received unanimous all-party support thirteen years ago at Queen’s Park. Protecting the environment is not a partisan issue at the local level. That’s why we are reaching out to people of all political stripes to join us in Protecting Our Plan.