Connecting Lake Simcoe's Community

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has released its Annual Report on Lake Simcoe, giving a detailed review on the environmental issues surrounding the Lake Simcoe area.

It summarizes implementation actions taken during 2015, as well as advice received from the two Minister’s advisory committees.

Below is a summary of the main points from the extensive report, broken down into six sections.

Water Quality
An emerging concern for the Lake Simcoe watershed is the use of winter salt. Results from research conducted by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and other partners have identified a cause for concern when it comes to the use of winter salt in parking lots and roads. In an average winter, an estimated 90,000 tonnes of salt is applied in the Lake Simcoe watershed. This salt contains chloride that eventually flows into the lake, contaminating the water. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and the LSRCA are working to reduce chloride by monitoring salt application rates and chloride concentrations in surface and stormwater to better understand cumulative effects.

Water Quantity
MOECC has been working with partners to complete Tier 2 Water Budget studies for all the Lake Simcoe subwatersheds, which provides residents with a complete groundwater model representation for the entire Lake Simcoe Basin. These groundwater flow models will help to improve our management of our water resources and provides critical information for subwatershed planning.
With support from the province, recently farmers have been monitoring their water use in barns and in the fields that they are irrigating. This informations helps them to either reduce or optimize their water consumption, cutting costs and being smarter with their water use, which has an effect on surrounding municipalities as a whole.

Protecting and Restoring Natural Heritage
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is continuing to assess and rehabilitate spawning and nursery habitats along Lake Simcoe shorelines, support pilots to demonstrate effective shoreline naturalization, restore priority sites in stressed subwatersheds and support the restoration of priority wetland habitat with partners.
With support from the province, ReWilding Lake Simcoe, an initiative of the Ontario Water Centre, undertook a wide variety of activities to launch an innovative way of rehabilitating underperforming or abandoned public shoreline spaces. Four sites identified as experiencing waterway impacts due to environmental degradation were selected as project sites to rewild. Walkabouts, design labs, idea campaigns, and best life workshops were held to help figure out how rewilding the spaces would best satisfy the needs of people and nature at the same time. Construction on the sites was completed in 2015 and showcased stormwater innovation in their final result.

Other Threats
In 2015, the province introduced a program with Boating Ontario, designed to teach boat owners how to appropriately clean their boats and prevent the spreading of invasive species. Stopping this growing issue has been a main focus for the MNR, and it has launched a series of outreach initiatives to educate citizens on the impact of invasive species. These initiatives include updating the Lake Simcoe Watch List, holding invasive species workshops for landowners, distributing awareness materials in the watershed, operating mobile boat washing stations, and promoting awareness of the invasive species Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System - EDDMapS Ontario. This work included the installation of trailhead signs for EDDMapS by municipalities, land trust groups, Conservation Authorities, and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nations.

Climate Change
The MOECC is continuing to support work that will help us adapt to climate change, including working closely with the LSRCA to implement low-impact development (LID) approaches across the watershed. The MOECC also continues to work with the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation (CGIFN) to collect traditional ecological knowledge about the changing climate and weather, plants and animals, as well as land and water. This knowledge will be utilized to further develop Climate Change Adaption Strategies for three First Nation communities located around the watershed.

Local Priorities
With support from the MOECC, the LSRCA recently created a Stewardship Priorities and Opportunities Tool (SPOT).  The SPOT software finds restoration projects for interested organizations that are related to improving fish habitat, increasing forestry or applying LID features to help manage stormwater within the Lake Simcoe watershed. This web-based interactive mapping tool uses monitoring data to prioritize certain areas and projects that would achieve the greatest benefit to watershed wellbeing.

Sharing Knowledge
Two publicly appointed Committees were established in 2010 under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act – the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee and the Lake Simcoe Science Committee. These committees provide advice to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change on the implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. Considerations that the two committees have brought to the attention of the minister include continuing funding for modernizing stormwater management through innovation and resources, improving alignment between the Growth Plan and Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, and the development of an environmental monitoring program to assess the status and trends of the terrestrial natural heritage systems and features. The province of Ontario has continued its commitment to take strong action to protect and preserve the ecological health of Lake Simcoe and its watershed, and continues to prioritize resolving the key environmental issues within the lake.

Article compiled by: Zehra Raza

Photo by Tony Bellissimo

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