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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.

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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

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