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Health of Lake Simcoe on 'thin ice,' local environmental groups warn

'We remain concerned that the protection of water quality, Lake Simcoe shorelines, and natural areas is not being managed well enough'
DO-NOT-USE-2020-01-04 Lake Simcoe
A satellite view of Lake Simcoe. Photo courtesy the Province of Ontario

Environmental Coalitions around Lake Simcoe have been waiting for the Province of Ontario to start the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review since 2019, and just as the winter holidays began, so did the review.

Lake Simcoe Watch, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and their member groups have been campaigning together under the banners of Protect Our Plan and Lake Simcoe Watch to educate and engage the public in this significant policy review.

At this point in time, the groups are concerned with the absence of scientific information upon which to justify changes to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Changes to targets and policies need to be justified using evidence that policies or practices either are working or are not working, they maintain.

“We know that residents, cottagers, fishermen, and the politicians that represent us, love and value Lake Simcoe, the watershed’s forests, trails, and natural areas. But we remain concerned that the protection of water quality, Lake Simcoe shorelines, and natural areas is not being managed well enough,” says Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

The retention of long-term, stable, and local jobs is more important than ever. The Lake Simcoe watershed supports a $420 million/year sustainable recreation sector. Without a healthy lake, much of that economy is on thin ice.

In early January, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition sent a letter to Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek asking for answers by mid-January to questions about what information is available, to who, and when, including:

Is the Ministry planning to release any other reporting data about Lake Simcoe? How should people be answering questions about policy and implementation in the absence of comprehensive analysis and information about the results of actions to date and the effectiveness of current approaches?

“The public fought hard to get Canada’s best watershed-based legislation. We don’t think it’s time to change it, we think it’s time to improve the implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan,” says Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has released a public survey, is offering to make presentations to municipalities, and is hosting town halls and a science forum. But almost one month into the review no further details have been provided.

In the absence of data that supports changes, the groups have asked the province to “Protect Our Plan”; not change it, but rather focus on implementation. To date, 2,800 people have signed petitions in support of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Lake Simcoe Watch’s position and priorities.

The Lake Simcoe groups have been articulating their priorities for the review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP) to the Province since 2019. They are:

  • Bringing down phosphorus loads to the lake to achieve or beat the targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, to reduce algae and weed growth and increase water quality;
  • Increasing protections for natural heritage features like forests, wetlands and shorelines to help support biodiversity, and to address phosphorus loading, warming water temperatures, and climate change.

Members of the public or media who want to know more about the issue, the groups’ positions, and research, and sign their petitions, see:

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition research and fact sheets and What is the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan explainer video:

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, click here

Cleaning Up Lake Simcoe report by Lake Simcoe Watch, click here