By: The Working Forest Staff
OTTAWA — The governments of Canada and Ontario have released the final Lake Erie Action Plan. The plan identifies more than 120 federal, provincial and partner actions, using mandatory and voluntary approaches, to help achieve the goal of reducing phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 percent. The plan will be reviewed and revised as needed over time to ensure continued progress towards achievement of targets.
“The Great Lakes are vitally important to the quality of life, economic prosperity and overall well being of Ontarians. It is imperative that we make every effort to respond to issues that threaten the health of the Great Lakes, and the Lake Erie Action Plan is a significant step towards ensuring that the ecosystem health of Lake Erie recovers and continues to provide all of the opportunities we’ve come to enjoy,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Phosphorus enters Lake Erie from many sources, including runoff from agricultural lands, urban centres, sewage treatment plants and septic systems. Actions included in the plan to reduce phosphorus loads include upgrading municipal wastewater treatment and collection systems, encouraging effective techniques to keep phosphorus on farmland and out of the watershed, and improving wetland conservation.
Phosphorus is a primary cause of harmful algal blooms that can have a wide range of impacts on the environment, human health and the economy: water quality, fish and wildlife populations and habitats are degraded; beaches are fouled; water intakes are clogged, commercial fisheries are at risk, and toxins can also pose a risk to humans.
The action plan was developed following extensive public engagement and close collaboration with Indigenous communities, municipalities, agricultural organizations, conservation authorities, interest groups, and others.
“The Great Lakes are a treasured resource for all Canadians. Through the Lake Erie Action Plan, we are working with our partners and delivering on a key commitment under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.Together, we are protecting our environment and strengthening our economy, and in doing so, improving freshwater resources so Canadians can swim, drink, and fish,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Indigenous peoples, as stewards of the land, have been valued partners in the development of this action plan. Canada and Ontario will continue to work in partnership with Indigenous communities within the Lake Erie basin to help implement the plan.
The agricultural sector also continues to be a leading partner in efforts to reduce phosphorus entering Lake Erie from agricultural land and adopting ways to reduce their overall environmental impact.
“Protecting and restoring the health of Lake Erie is vitally important to everyone in Ontario. Building on our Great Lakes Protection Act and working collaboratively with Canada and our partners, we are creating cleaner, more sustainable waters, healthier and stronger communities, and a better future for generations to come,”
said Chris Ballard, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
The Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan is an important milestone to protect the shared waters of the Great Lakes, and meets commitments under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health. The plan also meets commitments under the Ontario Great Lakes Protection Act and Ontario’s agreements with U.S. states.
- Lake Erie is the shallowest and most biologically productive of the Great Lakes, and it receives high loads of phosphorus, making it highly susceptible to harmful blue-green and nuisance algal blooms.
- Estimates indicate that these blooms could cost the Canadian Lake Erie basin economy $272M annually.
- Research shows we can expect an economic return of up to $2 for every dollar we invest to improve the health of the Great Lakes.
- Ontario’s Great Lakes Basin is home to about 40 percent of Canada’s economic activity.