Draft Lake Simcoe protection plan
The Lake Simcoe Protection Act and the draft Lake Simcoe Protection Plan raise the bar for environmental protection of a watershed in ways that Ontario has never done before.
Building on Ontario's watershed-protection approach in the Clean Water Act, the new act requires the province to establish a protection plan for the lake and surrounding areas. The draft Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is the most comprehensive watershed-based legislated plan in Canada. The draft plan is based on advice from the Lake Simcoe science and stakeholder advisory committees and from the people who live and work around Lake Simcoe.
Draft policies work together to meet the objectives in the act of restoring the coldwater fishery and protecting the ecological health of the lake. Protections will apply consistently across the watershed, which includes 23 municipalities.
The draft plan takes an ecosystem approach. This approach is science-based and considers cumulative impacts. It recognizes that a healthy environment is the cornerstone of healthy communities and a healthy economy.
The draft plan is both precautionary and adaptive. It exercises caution in favour of the environment when there is uncertainty about environmental risks. It will evolve and improve over time based on new science, changing conditions of the lake and experience in implementing the plan.
The draft plan is the first of its kind in many ways:
- It would require the development of a comprehensive phosphorus management strategy based on a phosphorus long-term goal of 44 tonnes per year, an amount much lower than current loading and based on the health of cold water fish communities.
- It would require municipalities to prepare master plans to control stormwater, which is a significant source of contaminants entering the lake.
- It would require the development of a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy. This strategy will be central to helping the watershed's capacity to adapt naturally to future climatic changes.
- It would restrict the use of live bait fish to species captured in the watershed. This is a key step in tackling invasive species and restoring the ecological health of the lake.
- It would protect the Lake Simcoe shoreline and natural heritage features in the watershed by restricting development and site alteration in key natural heritage and hydrologic features and imposes clear shoreline protection zones:
- 100 metres for undeveloped Lake Simcoe shoreline areas
- 30 - 120 metres in built up shoreline areas
- 30 metres in settlement areas, where feasible.
Plan policies would not be applied to development proposals that have already obtained their significant development approvals, for example, decisions made by the Ontario Municipal Board.
The draft plan integrates and builds on 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 draft plan provides for ongoing scientific advice on the ecological health of Lake Simcoe, on policies, programs and regulations being developed, and on the need for new policies.
The draft plan builds on the regulatory and stewardship roles of existing communities, organizations, businesses, landowners and the public, and seeks to involve these people in the implementation and review of the plan.
The draft plan is available for public comment until March 16, 2009. Read and comment on the plan at www.ontario.ca/lakesimcoe or through the Environmental Registry at www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry. The posting number is 010-4636.