The Ontario government recently did something wonderful for the Great Lakes. They passed the Great Lakes Protection Act!
Freshwater Future Canada is thrilled to see that the Great Lakes community finally achieved this hard won battle. The bill was first introduced back in 2012, but failed to make it to the final vote twice before, when government shut down for elections. While the delays were frustrating, in the end it may have been a good thing because the version of the bill that eventually passed was significantly stronger, more accountable and more transparent than its original version – thanks to the work of many conservation groups.
Another interesting observation is that the delays and political plays only served to build support for the bill. People and organizations- of all political stripes and interests – came together with the message that protecting water is in everyone’s interest and is not a partisan issue. Municipalities, farmers, conservation authorities, businesses, unions, health and tourism associations all told the province – in no uncertain terms – that they should prioritize Great Lakes protection and pass the bill.
It was also heartening to see support for action in Ontario come from our fellow conservation groups in the US. While laws only apply in the jurisdiction in which they are passed, we all know that the Great Lakes do not recognize borders. The US conservation community supported Ontario’s efforts – and their voices were heard by Ontario’s politicians.
This is such an important bill in part because it focuses on safeguarding rivers and lakes from the bottom up. It creates a new tool, called Geographically-Focussed Initiatives, that drives action locally. The tool is a mechanism for bringing together various interest groups in a community who are interested in protecting water. Freshwater Future Canada has always valued the voice of community groups, as it is at the local level where thousands of decisions are made every day that impact the health of our waters and our communities.
The new legislation also empowers the province to deal with large-scale, complex issues such as toxic algal blooms, loss of wetlands and climate change. For example, the province is now required to set targets and create action plans for reducing toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie within two years.
Freshwater Future Canada is thrilled to see Ontario stepping up to the plate to bring in some creative new measures for water protection. Together with our partners throughout the basin in Ontario and the United States, we will continue to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region.
Yesterday, Freshwater Future Canada, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, and Environmental Defence hosted a media tour of Pelee Island in Lake Erie. This week marks the one year anniversary of major water shut offs of Pelee Island that left a majority of their residents without water due to a toxic algal bloom. This tour allowed CTV Windsor, Windsor Star, Kingsville Free Press, Blackburn, and the CBC French Radio to get a first hand view of algae in Lake Erie.
Experts predict that this year’s bloom in western Lake Erie will be one of the worst ever recorded. Toxic algal blooms are a serious threat to public health, wildlife, and local economies. Algal blooms are forcing beach closures, increasing water treatment costs, killing fish, and are a threat to the lake’s multi-billion dollar tourism economy.
Just in time for summer, as families get ready to hit the beach, Canada and the United States have announced their draft targets for reducing phosphorus loads to combat Lake Erie algal blooms.
Harmful algal blooms have closed beaches, impacted the safety of our drinking water, and threatened the recreational use of our waters and fisheries. Last year, over half a million residents in Pelee Island and Toledo, Ohio couldn’t drink, or even use, their water because of a toxic algae bloom. To help keep our beaches healthy and our drinking water safe, Canada and the US, through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, have released targets that include a 40% reduction in phosphorus loads for the Lake. Detail on the targets can be found here.
These targets are a key step in the fight to restore the health of Lake Erie and prevent future harmful algal blooms. Next will be the development of plans to implement the targets, and we hope to see opportunities for broad public input and engagement with the NGO community. If you share our concern about the importance of consultation, you can use the survey tool the governments have provided to tell them you want the opportunity to be involved in the discussions about the formation of implementation plans; where the rubber meets the road for targets!
Meeting these targets will require input from all the sectors impacted by algae. Fortunately, collaboration around this issue has already begun. Environmental, conservation, governmental and farm groups in the US and Canada are already meeting and working together to identify a range of solutions to tackle this complex issue. Freshwater Future Canada is working in partnership with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and Tides Canada to increase public and NGO engagement around algae, and to bring a variety of perspectives together to develop solutions. Freshwater Future Canada also partnered with Environmental Defense to release a four-point plan for protecting Lake Erie.
You can help. If you share our love of Lake Erie, sign up here to stay connected about progress and actions you can take that will benefit not only Lake Erie, but all of the Great Lakes. We’ll let you know soon about an upcoming webinar that will delve into the details of the new draft targets, and let you know how you can provide your feedback. Active on social media? Like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter, for more Great Lakes info!
Photo credit: Tim Archer, University of Michigan
Decision makers around the Great Lakes made a promise to Lake Erie last week–just in time for summer and toxic algae season. Leaders from Michigan, Ohio and Ontario signed an agreement to reduce pollution significantly over the next 10 years.
Last August, nearly half a million Toledo area residents couldn’t drink or even use their water because of a toxic algae bloom.
On behalf of Lake Erie we say Thanks to the Governors and Premier for agreeing to collaborate and commit to help Lake Erie.
Fortunately, collaborating has already begun. Environmental, conservation, governmental and farm groups in the US and Canada are already meeting and working together to identify a range of solutions to tackle this complex issue.
Of course, YOU too can help get the best solutions in place. If you care about Lake Erie and want to be on our Lake Erie Alive email list, please sign-up here on our sister organization site, Freshwater Future. We’ll keep you posted about progress and actions you can take that will not only benefit Lake Erie but all our Great Lakes.
Summer days lie ahead and we hope you get a chance to swim, fish, boat and play in the waters that make our Great Lakes region a GREAT place to live, work, and have fun.
We are pleased to invite you to apply to our grant programs and seek our expert advice with our consulting services.
Our Grant Opportunities and Membership information for 2015 is now available online. Our Project Grants program’s spring cycle deadline is approaching, applications are due March 31, 2015
We are one of the only sources of funding for grassroots actions to protect and preserve the waters in the Great Lakes region.
As an organizational member, you have access to:
We encourage you to give us a call about your project ideas while you are in the process of applying. And to make certain you will be as effective as possible with your project, we encourage you to take advantage of our Insight Consulting Services and our Insight Grant program.
Thank you for all the work you do! We are proud to provide you the resources you need to achieve success.