News Update: Lake Erie’s Action Plan

Yesterday, the governments of Canada and Ontario released the final Action Plan for Lake Erie—something Freshwater Future Canada has said for years is needed to restore the health of Lake Erie and address toxic algal blooms.

Is it exactly what we think is needed? No. But let’s start with the good things that Freshwater Future Canada and our partners worked to include.

The new plan, which will be finalized next month, does three smart and very important things:

  • It includes 120 actions to be done by governments, conservation authorities and agricultural groups to reduce phosphorus pollution.
  • It increases transparency in government’s efforts to improve water quality—always a good thing.
  • It puts more money towards research and monitoring, helping to effectively target limited resources to solutions in areas with the highest levels of pollution.
  • It commits Canada to join the U.S. federal and state agencies in reporting on progress (or lack thereof) so that we can track how everyone is doing at meeting the plan’s goals.  

Now, what it doesn’t do…

The plan doesn’t rise to the urgency of the agricultural challenges we are trying to address. It relies on programs that ask farmers to voluntarily reduce pollution and it is unclear how these programs will be implemented across the basin, and how results will be measured. This will likely not be enough – we need a common sense approach to reducing runoff pollution that combines new legislation, compliance, and education.

Another shortcoming is the plan’s weak approach to protecting wetlands. We know that protecting existing wetlands is a cost-effective way of capturing polluted runoff before it gets into the lake, and yet the plan doesn’t commit to halting wetland loss until 2025.

Freshwater Future Canada worked hard to get us this far. For the first time, we nearly have a series of plans that bring Canada and the US together to take responsibility for the pollution that runs off the land into Lake Erie—a lake that supplies drinking water to over 11 million people.  

It’s a start, but we’re nowhere near done. In the year ahead, we will continue to advocate for the health and safety of Ontario families and do everything we can to encourage the government to develop smart programs and incentives that protect Lake Erie.

You can help us ensure that stronger action is taken to protect Lake Erie in 2018 by making a tax-deductible donation to Freshwater Future Canada today.