Environmental coalition says major development projects threatening Lake Simcoe

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition are warning that major construction projects proposed in York Region and Simcoe County are threatening the health of Lake Simcoe.

They want the province to fulfill its promise to protect Lake Simcoe as per the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. But they say the province must be honest about the impact that other decisions, like land use and transportation, have on Lake Simcoe with the following actions:

  • Limit growth in the watershed to sustainable levels in order to protect the lake’s health
  • Stop the Orbit MZO development for up to 150,000 people in farm fields around a proposed GO train station
  • Stop the Bradford Bypass over the Keswick/Holland Marsh at the south end of Lake Simcoe, destroying the very wetlands the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan
  • Stop the Upper York Sewage System from discharging into Lake Simcoe
  • Keep the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan strong; and Grow the Greenbelt into Simcoe County to support Lake Simcoe’s health and the perseverance of farming in the area.

A March 29 report titled “Lake Simcoe Under Pressure in 2021: Key Stressors and Solutions,” the groups say the cumulative effect of all of the several planned projects will “overwhelm” the watershed and urges the provincial government to further study the potential harm.

“Between now and the summer of 2021, conversations about what (if any) changes will be made to our home-grown watershed protection legislation, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, will take place. In the intervening time, we want everyone who loves Lake Simcoe to understand what it’s going to take to protect its water quality,” the report states.

“The province is consulting on Greenbelt expansion at this time too, until mid-April, 2021. Unfortunately, the consultation does not mention Greenbelt expansion to Simcoe County. But applying Greenbelt policies to Simcoe County would support the implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.”

If developments including the Town of Innisfil’s Orbit – a massive urban residential and commercial development planned around a new GO Transit station – are allowed to go ahead, opponents say the phosphorous load on the lake will increase by about 20 tonnes by 2051.

More than $80 million dollars from the province of Ontario and the federal government have been spent on Lake Simcoe’s rehabilitation since 2008. Those critical investments have helped naturalize some shorelines, restore some wetlands, and reduce phosphorus loads from agriculture, sewage treatment plants and urban sources.