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Barrie council will consider calling on feds for Lake Simcoe funding

'Having Barrie, essentially the biggest municipality on the lake, add their name to that list was extremely important,' says Coun. Sergio Morales
DO-NOT-USE-2020-01-04 Lake Simcoe
A satellite view of Lake Simcoe. Photo courtesy the Province of Ontario

Barrie could lend its voice to the call to fund a healthier Lake Simcoe.

Councillors will consider a motion Monday that the city supports federal funding for a Lake Simcoe restoration fund which represents a significant percentage of the Freshwater Action Plan fund, beginning this year.

The funding would be used to undertake measures such as shoreline mitigation, stream restoration and stormwater quality management - including the tributaries of Sophia Creek, Kidd’s Creek, Bunkers Creek, Dyments Creek, Hotchkiss Creek, Whiskey Creek, Lovers Creek, and Hewitts Creek.

Coun. Sergio Morales, the motion’s sponsor, said it mirrors one from Bradford West Gwillimbury Coun. Jonathan Scott to support other municipalities with a stake in Lake Simcoe.

Morales said there’s no dollar amount attached right now. 

“I think that’s premature,” the Ward 9 councillor said. “At this point all the municipalities are just banding together to make sure that the federal government carries out the follow-through in support of the operations they’ve committed to. What that number will actually look like will probably come once the implementation studies are done.”

The motion also includes support for projects to improve contaminated sites in the watersheds, upgrades to help retrofit municipal infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment and stormwater management facilities to decrease total current discharges from existing facilities.

It would include planting 250,000 trees in the watershed, along with purchasing and the conservation of more forests and wetlands under the auspices of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and to make significant progress towards the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan goal of 40 per cent of the watershed area being protected natural land.

“It’s not so much (telling) the federal government they haven’t done this,” Morales said. “I think it’s just more them (municipal governments) coming together and showing the federal government it’s still a huge priority for them and that it’s something they want to see sooner than later.

“I think what Coun. Scott communicated to me is having Barrie, essentially the biggest municipality on the lake, add their name to that list was extremely important for them.”

Morales noted that during the last 15 years the health of Lake Simcoe has improved, but there are more and new pressures.

“With impacts of growth, and then with all the impacts of the possible highway expansion, in the southern area of our lake and south Simcoe, I think this is prudent to make a priority so we can maintain and improve the health of the lake,” he said.

The Bradford bypass will link Highways 400 and 404 across the Holland Marsh wetlands.

The preamble to Morales’ motion says Lake Simcoe is one of Ontario’s largest watersheds, home to First Nations since time immemorial and situated in the growing communities of Simcoe County, York Region, Durham Region and the cities of Barrie and Orillia. The watershed faces threats, however, from phosphorus runoff and other contaminants into the lake and its tributaries.

The lake is a significant source of drinking water, as well as being integral for local recreation, tourism, agriculture and other key economic drivers.

The previous federal government funded a Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund of $65 million between 2007-2017, but that fund has not been renewed, the preamble says. During the 2019 federal election, the Liberals committed $40 million during five years toward Lake Simcoe.

During the 2021 federal election, the Liberals committed to ‘implement a strengthened freshwater action plan, including an historic investment of $1 billion over 10 years. This plan will provide essential funding to protect and restore large lakes and river systems, starting with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System, Lake Simcoe…’

The federal Conservatives also committed to re-funding the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund in the 2019 and 2021 general elections, with a five-year investment of $30 million.

A copy of the motion councillors will consider Monday would, if approved, be sent to the federal minister of finance, the minister of the environment and climate change, the president of the Treasury Board, the MPs for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Barrie-Innisfil, Simcoe North, York-Simcoe, Newmarket-Aurora, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, and Durham, and to all Lake Simcoe region municipalities and the LSRCA. 

This motion would go to the April 11 city council meeting for final approval.