Connecting Lake Simcoe's Community

The statistics highlighting the five-year, $29-million Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund (LSGBCUF) are impressive, writes Annabel Slaight.

Since 2013, funding has been distributed for 90 projects, large and small, to 55 unique recipients.
The scope of these projects is:
• 42 habitat restoration/non-point source phosphorous reduction projects
• five projects to reduce point source inputs of phosphorus
• 43 research/monitoring projects
The total funding provided via the Fund for these projects comes to $20.7-million.

A closer look is even more impressive. Measurable environmental benefits are being accomplished (phosphorus reduction, improvement to aquatic habitat and cold water fishery), serious collaboration is underway, innovation is almost always present, and more and more communities are being engaged. Lake Simcoe has become a Canadian leader in lake restoration through collaborative approaches.

To dig deeper into the impact of the Fund, the 12-member Public Advisory Committee, of which I am a member, asked Environment Canada staff to bring together various recipients in a day-long session this past summer to match their projects to LSGBCUF goals and speak candidly about what excited them about what they were doing.

This was the first time that LSGBCUF projects had been aggregated in this way, and everyone came away “pumped.” It’s easy, everyone agreed, to miss the overall impact of what is being accomplished when progress is a series of incremental steps. The only shortfall of the Fund would seem to be the visibility of the body of work that is contributing to the Fund’s massive goal. And so the Public Advisory Committee – who itself contributes more than 300 hours a year, alongside a Science Advisory Committee who contributes likewise – have prepared this overview as a snapshot of the breadth and depth of the work.
The committee’s agenda is transparent. “Some of us have watched this Fund evolve from the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund started in 2007, which contributed $21.4-million to the restoration of Lake Simcoe and has set the standard for this Fund. Now, we have observed first hand why this vital new Fund must continue on past its expiry in March 2017. It is well run, it is participatory, it is visionary — and each project adds to the slow but steady progress of cleaning up the waters of the Lake Simcoe and South-eastern Georgian Bay watersheds — a historic crossroads in the heart of Canada. “

Here is a glimpse of some of the projects underway:

The Community Stewardship Incentive Program
This holistic, educational and incentive-based program spans 350 projects over three years to reduce nutrients impacting watercourses and to improve habitat. More than 500 rural, semi-urban, shoreline and agricultural landowners are assessing their properties and working with the stewardship team to find additional resources to implement their projects.
Incentive funding within a guide-based program is a relatively new concept adapted from similar agricultural programs. Participation yields a high rate of return, both in financial leverage and environmental gains. At the end of this funding period, this project will have remediated up to 200 failed septic systems, restored several kilometres of degraded stream and lake shorelines, established several kilometres of riparian buffers and naturalized shorelines, improved or restored numerous wetlands, and diverted tons of sediment and hundreds of kilograms of nutrients.
Organization Dufferin Simcoe Land Stewardship Network
Category of Project Aquatic habitat restoration, non-point source phosphorus reduction
Time Span Three years
Price Tag $6.8-million (LSGBCUF $2.9-million)
What’s Cool “Such a high level of interest and participation … this program appears limited only by internal capacity to support and service demand”

ReWilding Pine Beach
A badly degraded beach park in the Pine Beach community of Keswick is the first public space to be “rewilded” in this multi-project program. ReWilding Lake Simcoe with 16 partner organizations is 22 on-the-ground projects over four years with research into landowner attitudes alongside.
Research reveals that traditional stewardship programs do not resonate with most people in urban/suburban areas, so ReWilding through citizen/expert engagement is pushing the frontiers of partnership between people and nature. Together they are discovering new ways of helping people enhance their own lives as they help the lake and watercourses.
At Pine Beach — now a demonstration site — a Town Square was envisioned by people as a giant rain garden filtering polluted runoff. A “dream stream” where kids can play is diverting and filtering nutrient runoff. Lake access for people is part of naturalizing the shoreline and improving aquatic habitat.
New projects in Beaverton, Sutton, the Kawartha Lakes and Innisfil are gearing up, as are new ways of helping the community to maintain improvements.
Organization Ontario Water Centre
Category of Project Aquatic habitat restoration, research and monitoring
Time Span Four years
Price Tag $1.6-million (LSGBCUF: $1.1-million)
What’s Cool “Discovering the potential of revolutionizing storm water runoff reduction in ways that meet the needs of people.”

Evaluation of On-Farm Wastewater Treatment Technologies to Decrease Phosphorus Contribution to Surface Water
Assessing new technologies in a variety of farm situations will allow large operators to consider total recycling of their water to eliminate discharge and others to invest in new technologies to reduce discharge. The program will inform decision-making, help water quality in Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay, and be transferrable to growers in other areas.
Organization Holland Marsh Growers Association
Category of Project Point source phosphorus reduction, research and monitoring
Time Span Four years
Overall Project Price Tag $3.7-million (LSGBCUF: $2.2-million)
What’s Cool“Creating a difference by discovering multiple technologies that can be used to decrease the impact farms have on the environment.”

Innisfil Creek and Upper Nottawasaga Watershed
Improvement Initiative: Beeton Creek Stabilization and Floodplain Habitat Restoration
This subproject of the Innisfil Creek and Upper Nottawasaga Watershed Improvement initiative with South Simcoe Streams Network is stabilizing stream banks and constructing new floodplains to dissipate flow from eroding banks. Work is also reducing in-stream algae growth.
Completed during the 2014 winter, this project has now passed its first success test. After the spring run off, banks remained stable and showed no erosion or release of sediment, meaning nutrients bound toward Georgian Bay have been decreased.
Organization Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
Category of Project Aquatic habitat restoration
Time Span Three years
Overall Project Price Tag $569,345
Cost of Beeton Creek (LSGBCUF: $314,684)
What’s Cool “Working with residents of an urban development including the resident developer to save costs

Nottawasaga Watershed Improvement Project: Black Ash Creek Bank Stabilization and Habitat Restoration
This subproject of the Innisfil Creek and Upper Nottawasaga Watershed Improvement initiative working with the Nottawasaga Watershed Improvement Program is reducing nutrient loading to Georgian Bay while optimizing cold water trout habitat.
In an urban area adjacent to a high traffic recreational trail, it  demonstrates how soft and hard engineered solutions and public participation (including high school students helping with planting) can connect aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Organization Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
Category of Project Aquatic habitat restoration
Time Span Three years
Overall Project Price Tag $655,908 (LSGBCUF: $383,300)
What’s Cool  “ This project will have positive spin-offs for managing future urban development in a manner that will sustain a public resource .“

Healthy Waters from Brook to Bay: Onstream Pond Bypass at Creemore Nature Reserve
This subproject of the “Healthy Waters from Brook to Bay” initiative joined with Nature Conservancy Canada, owner of the Creemore reserve, to create a stream bypass channel to allow fish passage and reduce thermal pollution on a tributary of the Noisy River.
The Conservancy raised funds and coordinated volunteers. Already the project has shown benefits including improved water quality in this important cold water trout fishery, and reduced potential for phosphorus sediment being released downstream. Monitoring continues.
Organization Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
Category of Project Aquatic habitat restoration
Time span Three years
Overall Project Price Tag $954,303
Cost at Creemore Pond (LSGBCUF: $446,626)
What’s Cool “Over 26 volunteers contributing over 300 hours for planting to stabilize and shade the new stream — a ‘how to’ for subsequent projects.”

Scanlon Creek Restoration
Many projects are being undertaken by the LSRCA but this one is remarkable for reversing what was thought to be a good idea 40 years ago but turned out not to be. In the early 1970s, a dam was built to create a reservoir for recreational activities (canoeing, fishing, etc.), but as it turned out, this blockage seriously distressed the natural water system and migration paths for important cold water fish.
Using bioengineering techniques and other best practices including the participation of 130 volunteers in tree planting, a new natural channel was created. Now Scanlon Creek is flowing freely again and over 14 km of creek has been reconnected to support fish habitat.
Organization Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
Category of Project Aquatic habitat restoration
Time Span One year
Overall Project Price Tag $469,916 (LSGBCUF: $155,206)
What’s Cool“ The area can now help educate both the public and school groups about the impacts of online ponds”

Coordinated Nutrient Monitoring Strategy for Eastern Georgian Bay
An earlier report on the State of the Bay identified gaps in monitoring nutrients on the eastern and northern coasts and insufficient cross-sectoral coordination.
This project based on relationship building towards a common objective is developing system efficiency to save resources and money will also end up with a platform for other forms of coordination and better communications with the public.
Organization Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve Inc
Category of Project Research and monitoring
Time Span Two years
Overall Project Price Tag $403,791 (LSGBCUF: $191,305)
What’s Cool ”Improving dialogue and means of engaging and interesting the concerned public.”

Sampling water quality in Lake Couchiching through public participation
This project after training volunteers and has engaged them in surveying the water quality in Lake Couchiching. After learning more about the flow from Lake Simcoe, where water quality is a concern, the importance of water quality in our freshwater systems and training in sampling techniques, volunteers set forth.
This project has tied direct to community sustainability, helped decision-making organizations with monitoring information, and heightened commitment to stewardship of the public engaged. The findings were also good news: nutrient levels proved to be below the provincial guidelines and therefore posed no current concern for Lake Couchiching.
Organization Lakehead University, Orillia campus
Category of Project Research and monitoring
Time Span One year
Overall Project Price Tag $95,928 (LSGBCUF: $45,528)
What’s Cool  “The enthusiasm of the public learning while they were doing.” For more examples of how the LSGBCUF is being used for a positive impact, go to http://www.lakesimcoeliving.com.

BACKGROUND
The 2007 – 2012 Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund (LSCUF) was successful in accelerating the adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs) in the watershed, reducing phosphorous loads from urban and rural sources, and improving information and monitoring for decision making.
The Government of Canada announced in Budget 2012 $29-million in funding to establish a renewed and expanded 2012-2017 Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-up Fund (herein called the Fund). The geographic scope of the initiative will expand beyond the Lake Simcoe drainage basin, to include the adjacent drainage basins emptying into south-eastern Georgian Bay, including the watersheds and bays of Nottawasaga Valley, Severn Sound, and the targeted coastal regions west of Highway 400/69 north of Port Severn to the French River. The extension and expansion of the program will reduce phosphorous inputs into Lake Simcoe and South-eastern Georgian Bay, improve water quality, and conserve critical aquatic habitat and associated species in these waters.

The following are the main objectives for projects within the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-up Fund:
• to improve environmental monitoring, assessment and scientific information required to measure the effectiveness of control strategies, and identify and assess alternative approaches to reducing phosphorous discharges;
• to conserve critical aquatic habitat and associated species through targeted aquatic habitat protection, restoration and creation projects;
• to reduce rural and urban non-point sources of phosphorous / nutrients, including implementation of BMPs for the management of soil, crops, livestock, and water use, septic systems and creating and rehabilitating wetlands and naturalizing watercourses to attenuate phosphorous discharges;
• to reduce discharge of phosphorous from point sources including sewage, combined sewer overflows and urban stormwater systems including support to development and testing of innovative approaches to manage urban stormwater and wastewater.

Article courtesy of Annabel Slaight, who is a member of the Lake Simcoe South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund’s Public Advisory Committee. A co-founder of Ladies of the Lake, she is a tireless advocate for improving the health of Lake Simcoe.

This is the full version of an article published in the 2015 Nov-Dec issue of Lake Simcoe Living Magazine.

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