Moving forward to protect Lake Simcoe
Four decades of scientific studies show that impacts from human activities have impaired the health of the Lake Simcoe watershed ecosystem. The Lake Simcoe Science Advisory Committee recommends that Ontario needs to act immediately to protect the lake. Otherwise, the impact of current activities, future growth and other major stressors, notably climate change and new invasive species, will be too much for the health of the lake.
PROPOSED LAKE SIMCOE PROTECTION ACT
The Lake Simcoe Protection Act, if passed by the Legislature, would set the framework for protecting the lake by:
- requiring the province to create the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan
- setting the objectives of the plan
- setting the scope of the plan and the mechanisms for carrying it out
- creating science and stakeholder committees to support plan implementation
- allowing the province to regulate shoreline protection in critical areas to protect water quality
- promoting environmentally sustainable land use practices and development
- allowing the province to require municipalities to pass by-laws to control site alteration, top soil removal, tree cutting, use of lawn fertilizers and pet waste
The proposed legislation is posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. The registry number is 010-3753.
DEVELOPING THE LAKE SIMCOE PROTECTION PLAN
The plan would set the priorities and targets for addressing key threats to the health of the Lake Simcoe ecosystem based on science. Threats include:
- excessive phosphorus and other pollutants
- climate change
- invasive species
- loss and fragmentation of natural areas and habitat
- changes to the hydrologic cycle
- human use of resources
The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan would use a mix of mandatory and voluntary measures to achieve the targets. It would integrate and build upon Ontario's existing frameworks for environmental protection and land use planning. This would provide protection for the lake where it most needs it without duplicating existing protections.
The Ministry of the Environment will draft the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan over the summer. The science and stakeholder advisory committees and Aboriginal communities will be involved as the government develops this long-term protection plan. The ministry expects to start public consultation late this year.
PROTECTING LAKE SIMCOE IN THE INTERIM
To avoid adding to the problems already facing the lake, the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act could apply transition rules to projects that have some but not all approvals at the time the plan comes into effect. The transition rules would be contained in regulations. These transition rules cannot revisit approvals received before the time the plan comes into effect. The rules may affect an application for an approval that was started before the plan comes into effect but has not yet been decided. In addition, such transition rules would apply the new protection policies to proposed development and other proposed project applications likely to have an adverse effect on the health of the lake at the time the plan comes into effect. For example, they would apply to proposed developments that would affect shorelines, wetlands and aquatic habitat, or increase phosphorus loadings to the lake.