Last week, 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 per cent. The action plan was developed following extensive public engagement and close collaboration with Indigenous communities, municipalities, agricultural organizations, conservation authorities, interest groups, and others.
Phosphorus enters Lake Erie from many sources, including runoff from agricultural lands, urban centres, sewage treatment plants and septic systems. Actions 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.
The algal blooms 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.
Ontario is building on the launch of the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan, to protect the health of Lake Erie by funding 19 community projects in the Lake Erie Watershed.
The government is providing over $430,000 to not-for-profit organizations, schools, First Nations and Métis communities and other local groups to restore and protect Lake Erie and the rivers and streams that flow into it.
2018 GLGCF (Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund) projects for Lake Erie communities include:
Haldimand Stewardship Council, Inc, Haldimand – $25,000 to engage and encourage landowners to restore wetlands on their properties at five sites within the Lake Erie and Niagara River watersheds, to improve hydrological function, water quality, species habitat and ecosystem health. Silt fences will also be installed around wetland borders to protect against erosion.
Haldimand Stewardship Council, Inc, Haldimand – $25,000 to protect habitat and species by foresting land close to environmentally sensitive areas. In partnership with Forest Ontario, the council will plant 40,000 trees on six sites with 15-year conservation easements signed to protect the 20 hectares of land.
Brant Waterways Foundation, Brantford – $12,000 to work with volunteers, including 500 high school students, in Brantford over Earth Week 2018 to plant 4,320 trees.
- 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.
- Algal blooms impact the enjoyment of the lake for millions of people in the region.
- 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.