• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Ministry touts success on lake cleanup

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In Water
Jan 29th, 2011
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By Tracy Kibble Bradford Topic Jan 26, 2011
Georgina fishing enthusiasts, experts and those who earn a living from the popular sport welcomed Ontario’s environment minister Tuesday afternoon to Bonnie Boats in Jackson’s Point.
John Wilkinson came to North America’s touted fishing capital to officially release his first Annual Report on Lake Simcoe before heading out to one of Bonnie Boats’ fish huts for a stint at catching perch for the afternoon fish fry.
The ministry’s 46-page report cites steps the province has taken over the past year on all 88 recommendations in the 2009 Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, but acknowledges 2011 will be the “key year” for implementing many of the projects under way.
“Fishing is vital to Lake Simcoe’s economy. We are taking strong action to protect Lake Simcoe to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy its benefits. Our actions to date have made Ontario’s water some of the best protected in the world,” Minister Wilkinson said.
There has, however, been some controversy about how the initiative will be funded with some lake communities saying local taxpayers will foot much of the bill. 
Here’s how it works, according to Grahame Rivers of the minister’s office:
The province committed $20 million for scientific research over a four-year period starting in 2008. This included enhanced monitoring of the lake and its ecological health and the promotion of stewardship activities by farmers, the agricultural sector and individual residents and cottagers. Ottawa is funding a number of Lake Simcoe Protection Plan projects under Environment Canada’s $30-million Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund.
Generally, municipalities cover costs within their mandates, including implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan policies, Mr. Rivers told The Advocate Tuesday, adding future federal or provincial infrastructure programs may be able to assist with eligible costs associated with these improvements.
Municipalities also have a larger role beyond land use planning, including data collection and monitoring, sewage treatment plants and planning of greening public facilities.
New provincial projects will be launched this year, the report shows, including a climate change adaptation strategy to continue to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Simcoe by almost 40 per cent — from 72 tonnes a year to 44 tonnes a year — and restore the cold water fishery.
That’s good news to year-round anglers and area business owners.
“Lake Simcoe is the No. 1 summer and winter fishing destination in Canada. More native fish are now reproducing naturally in the lake and it took 50 per cent less lake trout to stock the lake last year,” the Georgina Fishing Series tournament director Rocky Madsen said, who joined the minister, along with Mayor Rob Grossi and Bonnie Boats owner Scot Davidson for Tuesday’s event.
The phosphorous reduction strategy is one example of the way the province is helping restore the health of the lake and its fish populations and protecting Lake Simcoe is also part of the government’s Open Ontario Plan, he said.
Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and Environment Ministry data show the highest source of phosphorus in the lake comes from streams, including urban and rural areas at 41 tonnes or 56 per cent annually.
Surprisingly, the second largest source of phosphorus is rain water, with 19 tonnes or 27 per cent coming from the atmosphere, while only 7 per cent or five tonnes comes from sewage treatment plants, studies show.
The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan has provided a road map to protect the lake and its future as a source of economic and recreational activity, the ministry says, adding 4,000 to 5,000 ice fishing huts are located on the lake each winter and anglers spend more than 700,000 hours ice fishing on the lake from the end of January to the middle of March.
Lake Simcoe is home to popular sport fish, such as lake trout, whitefish, perch and bass.
Sport fishing and recreation on Lake Simcoe contribute about $200 million a year to the local economy.
Actions to date have reduced phosphorus loads from more than 100 tonnes per year in the 1980s to the current load of 72 tonnes per year.
If you would like to get involved, contact the ministry’s Lake Simcoe project team at protectlakesimcoe@ontario.ca, visit its website at www.ene.gov.on.ca/en/water.lakesimcoe or call 1-800-565-4923.

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