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LETTER: Protection plan for Lake Simcoe isn't working

'The public and advocacy groups like Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition deserve to have honest scientific accountability to guide policy,' resident says
2020-01-04 Lake Simcoe
A satellite view of Lake Simcoe. Photo courtesy the Province of Ontario

OrilliaMatters received the following letter from Linda Wells regarding Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.

On Feb. 11, our provincial government held the ONLY town hall regarding the mandated 10-year review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.

The online meeting was woefully short on current scientific data that could be used to analyze the effectiveness of the Plan. There are two benchmarks vital to the health of the Lake: phosphorous loads and dissolved oxygen.

The phosphorous data are from 2018 and show phosphorous loads are still twice as high as the target for healthy water and the dissolved oxygen is barely above the standard to support fish life. Dissolved oxygen has met only the minimum target once (barely).

Residents see their fouled beaches closed (Beaverton’s main beach was closed to swimming 60% of the time in 2020) because of deplorable e-coli levels. Invasive algae growth, brown plumes from agricultural and development run-off clouds their waters for days after a heavy rainfall. Where is climate change adaptation in light of likely future severe weather events?

Chloride levels from over salted winter roads are going way up. Little to no funding has been provided for the storm water ponds and infrastructure improvements to achieve better water quality. Rather we are seeing a provincial government forcing and aiding municipalities into an atrocious amount of growth. Development is killing the lake.

The town hall online meeting hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (244 participants – a high degree of interest) was more of a gas lighting review since the data we do know of is showing the indicators that the public can see with their own eyes is clearly going in the wrong direction.

Plus this government is approving a shocking amount of growth in the watershed area into a planning horizon of 2051!

So the growth that has to be accommodated is going to gobble up more land than before. Moving that much development dirt will increase phosphorous levels entering the lake.

According to 2009 provincial government analysis even using development best practices to reduce storm water flows and nutrient loading into the lake, the phosphorous loads would increase 9.2 tons by 2031. However, no such analysis has been provided for this growth increase ordered to be accommodated to 2051` - if that is ever done it will be a real eye-opener.

We the public have to demand the province provide good data about the impacts of development and how to guard the watershed against it.

Frustratingly the province did not provide context that would have helped evaluate whether we are meeting any of the natural heritage green cover targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, like wetland loss, shoreline health or natural cover.

So unimportant was the 10-year Protection Plan review that our shoreline MPP’s Jill Dunlop, Caroline Mulroney and Doug Downey didn’t even Tweet about the Lake Simcoe town hall and science forum. Only MPP Andrea Khanjin from Innisfil-Barrie shared information about the town hall publicly.

Many of us on the town hall expressed dismay regarding the avoidance of accountability and the appearance that the province is whitewashing the goals of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan Review.

If they were honest they would have to admit that the Plan isn’t working.

Will the province please stop telling us that the health of the lake is improving? Any minor improvements are sure to be overshadowed by the impacts of growth ordered by the province through its revised growth plan.

The public and advocacy groups like Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition deserve to have honest scientific accountability to guide policy.

Linda Wells
Oro Station