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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority presents One Voice Action Plan

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) announced Friday that in anticipation of the competition of phase 3 of the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy (LSEMS), the Authority has involved partner agencies, citizens, community groups, governments and scientists to help develop the One Voice Action Plan (OVAP).

"This is a draft for discussion," said Gayle Wood, CAO of the LSRCA.

The plan, drafted by the Conservation Authority, involves input from LSEMS partners, will help develop a new watershed responsibility structure.

"What we are saying is that there needs to be a new way to do business,' said Wood. "We need the government and citizens at the table."

The proposed "new cooperative" organizational structure would see citizen and the government representation on various committees; communications and education; policy and planning; science and monitoring; best management practices; and funding and fundraising.

After receiving comments and more detailed analysis, the OVAP Business Plan for 2007 2010 should be developed by December 2006, with the help of stakeholder and community input.

Gord Miller, E n v i r o n m e n t a l Commissioner of Ontario, said Lake Simcoe has always been a case study of how people want to live their lives and how it effects the landscape.

"We have to be more innovative and courageous in our land use," said Miller. He also stated changes will cost money and take considerable effort.

"The name of the plan is the One Voice Action Plan, and I hope people can speak with one voice for Lake Simcoe."

The purpose of the OVAP, as outlined by the

Authority, is to identify the ongoing needs and long term solutions; co-ordinate funding and planning efforts; engage and involve the government, community groups, organizations and the public; act as a conduit of information; marshal resources.

The four key priorities of the OVAP include communications, a responsibility system, adequate and substantial funding, and watershed based planning.

Wood also said they have to have the environment and development sector working together.

"We have to look at sustainable urban growth."

With such an divergent interest in the watershed, from fishermen to marinas to environmentalists, Wood said the key challenge is "how do you bering these folks together?"

"It's not going to be easy, but it will be achievable," she said.

Mike Walters, Director of Watershed Management, said the Conservation Authority will open a dialogue with developers within the watershed.

"We have to bring the values of everybody to the table," he said. Walters also said the Conservation Authority will be working with developers in the future and is looking to bring innovation and creativity when protecting the environment.

Present at the meeting was Marvin Geist, a development lawyer and resident of Innisfil.

"As far as I'm concerned, the last thing we want to do is use and abuse the watershed area," he said. "We are there to contribute to the community and the environment. Our industry is more than responsible and will continue to do our share."

Julia Munro, MPP York North, said it's a balancing act between the environment and developers.

"We have to accept the reality of the pressures of growth," she said.

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