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Friday, February 29, 2008

Ethanol Plant in Barrie - Say No!

The proposed Ethanol Plant in Barrie is currently under environmental review. The effects of this plant are far reaching with a heavy increase in rail and truck traffic to deliver product to the plant for refining. Estimates are at 5-10 trucks an hour and up to 50 railcars a day. This poses potential for disaster along both the rail and 400 corridors in the case of a spill. The rail lines pass right by many tributaries that feed lake Simcoe and in some cases lie within half a km of the lake. I`m interested in getting your feedback on this matter from an environmental impact perspective, please leave a post!. Anyone interested in learning more should visit - Citizens Against Refining Ethanol

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tories announce added $18 million for lake

Tories announce added $18 million for lake
The federal government is providing an additional $18 million in funding to restore and protect Lake Simcoe's environment, bringing their total investment to $30 million over the next five years.

The funding is part of Canada's $93 million action plan to improve water quality and to protect the county's lakes, rivers and oceans. "I am very pleased that the government has delivered on a commitment I made to work to protect Lake Simcoe's environment," York Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan said.

"After years of inadequate funding, the Conservative government is taking action to improve the water we drink, clean polluted waters, protect our ecosystems and ensure the sustainability of our fish resources."

There has been a major call to action by various environmental groups in the region wanting to protect and restore Lake Simcoe.

Claire Malcolmson, coordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe, and members of Georgian Students for Environmental Awareness and Research (GEAR), found great success when they went "hut to hut" last weekend to bring awareness of the plight of Lake Simcoe to ice fishermen utilizing the lake.

"This announcement is even more exciting than the last federal funding announcement about a year ago. But I would feel reassured if we were told about an affective delivery mechanism for these funds. The under resourced advisory group, PROPEL, has yet to develop the terms of reference for sending the original funding," Malcolmson said.

PROPEL is a committee that was created to provide advice to the minister of the environment, John Baird, on how to allocate the $12 million in funding announced as part of the 2007 budget to protect and clean up Lake Simcoe.

According to Malcolmson, the funding announced in the budget has yet to be distributed. Malcolmson has some of her own ideas on how to utilize some of the funding.

"Outreach and increasing citizen participation is part of the restoration process," she said. "There are lots of ways to build the movement. We need to extend the reach."

Other clean water initiatives from Van Loan and the Conservatives include banning of dumping sewage and other waste from watercraft and new rules virtually banning phosphates from dishwasher detergent.

Phosphorus loading is the main pollution issue affecting Lake Simcoe. Phosphorus can be found in detergents or fertilizers. Once phosphorus makes its way into a body of water, it artificially increases weed and algae growth. When the growth decomposes it chokes off the lake's oxygen making it difficult for cold-water fish to breathe. Currently, 58 known species of fish inhabit Lake Simcoe. "Restricting phosphorus is a timely initiative. It is definitely fantastic news," Malcolmson said.


Lake Simcoe provides drinking water to eight municipalities, and is known for its recreation industry, which generates more than $200 million in annual revenues.

The region supports farming and recreational fishing and has recently undergone significant increased urban development.

Currently, the Lake Simcoe watershed has more than 380,000 residents. It is estimated that the population in the Lake Simcoe watershed could be more than 500,000 by 2021

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Yamaha Ice Derby

The Yamaha Ice Derby takes place in Keswick - March 1

Monday, February 11, 2008

Students spread message on protecting Lake Simcoe

Georgian College students took to the ice this weekend to raise awareness of the issues affecting the health of Lake Simcoe.
"We want people who are enjoying the lake to be aware of what's at risk here if we don't get a protection act in place for Lake Simcoe," said Claire Malcomson, co-ordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe and a member of Environmental Defence.
High levels of phosphorus, found in detergents and fertilizers, is one of the main issue affecting Lake Simcoe, the group says.
Phosphorus artificially increases weed and algae growth. When the growth decomposes, it chokes off the lake's oxygen, making it difficult for cold-water fish to breathe.
Members of GEAR, Georgian Students for Environmental Awareness and Research, went "hut to hut" yesterday in glacial temperatures and intense wind to discuss the issue of phosphorus and the proposal of a protection act for Lake Simcoe with ice fishermen utilizing the lake.
"With the amount of waste that goes into this lake, they will never be able to purify it in a million years. What's been done is irreversible, but we need to stop it before it gets worse," said John Top of Owen Sound, one of the fisherman approached by GEAR members.
GEAR and Environmental Defence have had great success in the last year in bringing awareness to the public and receiving recognition for their cause from politicians.
When the campaign to protect the lake was mentioned in Premier Dalton McGuinty's Throne Speech this past November, the group knew they had made headway.
Campaign Lake Simcoe expects there will be a Lake Simcoe Protection Act in place by the end of the year, but Malcomson, whose family has owned a cottage on the lake for more than 115 years, hopes it will be underway by the summer.
Carlo Baldassarra was one of many fishermen approached by GEAR this weekend who takes the health of the lake seriously, and who has personally pitched in to help keep the area's waterways clean.
"We work closely with the Ontario Steelheaders and volunteer with cleaning streams and lakes in the spring, summer and fall," Baldassarra said of he and his friends.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Winter fishing is on thin ice

February 9, 2008

For a dark, frozen moment, Eugene Rafuse was sure he was going to die.

Cracks in the ice - first one, then many - had risen in front of his snow-grooming machine as he drove over Lake Simcoe with his son, Kyle, then 15. Gunning the engine, Mr. Rafuse almost got through the danger zone when the weight of the ice-fishing hut he was towing proved too much. The groomer was pulled into the frozen water.

Kyle scrambled out of the cab, then plunged underwater. Someone thrust the handle of an ice auger through the broken ice. Kyle grabbed it and was pulled free. Eugene, however, found himself at the bottom of Lake Simcoe under four metres - 14 feet - of water and 15 centimetres of ice.

"You can't explain it. It's just terrifying," Mr. Rafuse said a year after the icy plummet.
Print Edition - Section Front

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The Globe and Mail

He thrust himself toward the surface, hit the ice with a thud and started swimming, only to realize he was going the wrong way. By the time he turned around, he was running out of air. "I started blacking out. I knew I was going to go. I didn't even know where the hole was," he said.

Then someone on the surface - Mr. Rafuse still doesn't know who - saw his arm pass under a gap in the ice. The stranger grabbed his arm and dragged him out. "Another split second and I was drinking water," he said.

It was -20 and that stretch of ice had been solid as a rock the night before. The incident rams home a safety call being made across the province: Don't assume the ice is safe.

Indeed, this week, Bancroft police identified two college students who died when the minivan they were travelling in last Saturday broke through the ice on Kamaniskeg Lake, south of Algonquin Park.

Paul Sanders, 24, of Mitchell, Ont., and Vancouver student Janine Lieu, 22, were trapped in the van as it sank. Their two friends, fellow students at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry's Bay, on the north shore of Kamaniskeg Lake, escaped and sought shelter in nearby cottages. Ontario Provincial Police divers recovered the students' bodies on Monday.

Mr. Rafuse's near-miss and the students' tragedy highlight a new danger brought on by changing climate patterns in a province where frozen lake water has traditionally been used as a transportation route by snowmobilers and others.

The ice on Lake Simcoe has become so unreliable that the annual Yamaha-sponsored Ice Fishing Championship, based in Manitoba with competitions in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario, has delayed its Ontario event. This year, the Keswick competition on Cook's Bay will start on March 1, a month later than usual.

Event organizer Larry Bosiack said ice across the country is changing. What used to set like concrete now has inch-thick layers as soft as butter. Last year's event at Lake Simcoe was near open water.

Ice depths on lakes across Southern Ontario are thinner than in decades past. Warm spells and late freezing times have shortened ice-fishing seasons in recent years, and changing conditions make ice hard to read, according to lake residents and commercial operators.

At Lake Simcoe, the most heavily winter-fished lake in the province, the average duration of freeze has dropped from 84 days a year in the 1990s to an average of 81 days this decade.

In the warm winter of 2001-02, most of the lake froze for only 34 days. Some areas didn't freeze at all.

While this year is better than that strangely warm winter, it is still far behind the ice-laden days of the 1960s when three or four feet of ice would cover the water's surface.

Currently, the sheltered spots below Georgina Island and in the lake's south have about a foot of ice, but elsewhere it is too thin for safe fishing, said Rocky Madsen, tournament director of the Canadian Ice Fishing Championships, to be held on Lake Simcoe's south shore on Feb. 23 and 24. He's hoping for a prolonged freeze to thicken the ice cover in the meantime.

"This is the third [year] in a row with less-than-desirable ice," he said. "It's February and we're still not out properly on the main part of the lake."

December and January are the critical months for ice formation on Lake Simcoe, locals say. At -10, lakes can form an inch of ice overnight. The ice can be maintained at -2. By February, Lake Simcoe usually starts losing a bit of ice each day, and by March, safe fishing is a day-by-day assessment. This year's first freeze came in mid-December, but a warm spell soon sent anglers back off the ice.

Farther north, Lake Nipissing's fishing season started on schedule at the turn of the year, but the lake has less ice than usual.

These warm winters could be a glimpse of what is to come, said Daniel Scott, a University of Waterloo professor and Canadian Research Chair for Global Change and Tourism.

By 2020, such "bad" warm winters are likely to become much more frequent, he said. That won't be the end of ice fishing, but commercial operators may have a harder time making ends meet.

"With ice fishing and snowmobiling, there's not much you can do. You get what Mother Nature gives you," Dr. Scott said.

For those heading out on the ice, Andrew Emsley of Dave's Fishing Huts, based in Jackson's Point, said clear ice - which looks black because of the water underneath - is safest, and at 25 centimetres thick can hold a car. White ice contains air and slush, and needs to be about 43 centimetres thick for safe driving.

Anglers should also beware of pressure cracks that form when the lake ice expands and moves. "We monitor the ice every day, but other people come out and wander about everywhere. They think ice is all the same," Mr. Emsley said. "They're the ones we worry about. Snowmobilers are the worst. They'll zip along anywhere."

Despite shorter ice-fishing seasons and thinner ice, he said the sport is gaining popularity. Big sporting retailers are offering cheaper equipment and locals continue to head onto the ice in droves.

For Mr. Rafuse, the near-fatal crash to the lakebed kept him off the ice for about two weeks, but the full impact of the incident didn't sink in until the following summer, when he dove into the water for a swim with his son. As soon as his head went below the surface, he was plunged into a vivid flashback.

Now, he always checks the ice and stores two cans of Spare Air in his snow-grooming vehicle. The foot-long bottles of air are usually used by scuba divers in case of emergency, and were presented to Mr. Rafuse as a Christmas gift from his family. He hopes he never has to use them.

"I think of it every morning I go on the ice," he said. "I give the lake a lot of respect now. Much more. ... You just don't know how much you appreciate that breath of air you take every day until you can't find the next breath."

The city has picked up a piece of lakefront real estate.

The city has picked up a piece of lakefront real estate.

This week, council approved the purchase of 463 Atherley Rd. by Lake Simcoe for $225,000.

“In my opinion, one of the best things it does is protect the vista,” said Coun. Tim Lauer.

The boat launch at the shore is used by anglers, especially during the perch festival.

Coun. Joe Fecht, the main driver behind the acquisition, said the boat launch could be improved if it’s to be one of the main access points to Lake Simcoe.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Stay away from ponds and streams

Feb 05, 2008 09:24 AM
Warm temperatures and rain have prompted high water warnings from the region's two conservation aurthorities.

Showers are expected to continue off and on until Wednesday. While flooding is not anticipated, the mix of rising temperatures, rain and melting snow means increased flows and water levels in rivers, streams and ponds creating unsafe conditions, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority says.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority has issued a similar warning.

Ice covered ponds and streams should be considered dangerous and are to be avoided.

The warning remains in effect until Thursday when temperatures are expected to plummet.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Fish tournaments no threat to lakes: report; Bass, perch stocks holding up well

Fish tournaments no threat to lakes: report; Bass, perch stocks holding up well

Fishing tournaments on Orillia's lakes aren't having a negative effect on local stock, concludes a report from the city's parks and recreation department.

For any new events, however, organizers will be asked to submit a fish management strategy, council committee decided this week.

"I think it's important for the city to put the obligation on the tournament organizers to take responsibility to ensure the participants use best practices," Coun. Joe Fecht said yesterday.

Fecht, concerned about the potential impact of a series of bass tournaments in Orillia, had asked parks and recreation to investigate the effect of catch-and-release fishing.

On Monday, city staff presented that report after consulting with Ministry of Natural Resource experts.

"They felt that bass and perch were very hardy fish," Patty Ward, the city's recreation facility supervisor, told city politicians.

Ward's report added Lake Simcoe has an "abundance of bass, particularly smallmouth bass, and the (ministry) does not have a concern about the sustainability of these stocks with the number of approved tournaments" in Orillia.

Moreover, staff accepted the conclusion that "well-run bass tournaments have little or no impact on local fish populations."

Orillia's lineup includes four weekends of catch-and-release bass tournaments between the end of June and October.

The city's perch festival, which encourages but can't mandate catch-and-release, takes place in late April.

Ward said the practices of established event organizers are known to staff, but suggested new arrivals should be asked to submit a "suitable fish management strategy."

Bang for your Buck

"Certainly, we don't expect anyone to be out on the lake checking them," Ward said.

The parks and recreation report suggests the perch festival start an education campaign regarding selective harvesting so larger female fish aren't caught.

Fecht failed to gain support for a best-practices education program that would have produced pamphlets or fact sheets for anglers during fishing events.

Coun. Ralph Cipolla questioned the logistics and expense of distributing the pamphlets: "You're looking at 3,000 to 5,000 pamphlets to hand out."

Fecht said yesterday he plans to revise his suggestion for another pitch at council next week.