November 26, 2007

Feds add funds to Lake Winnipeg cleanup activities

The federal government is increasing its support for cleanup activities on Lake Winnipeg, providing $18 million over five years under its Action Plan for Clean Water. This investment will add $11 million to the $7 million already committed by the government.

The increased funding for the cleanup of the Lake Winnipeg basin will support a science-based approach to understanding how nutrient runoff affects the ecology of the lake and how to control nutrient inputs to its watershed. This knowledge will be used to encourage best practices in the agricultural industry and improve municipal management practices in the watershed.

The government will also work to develop new performance indicators to monitor the health of the lake, and will improve the monitoring network by creating a number of new sites and improving existing sites throughout the basin.

It is expected that this initiative, accompanied by provincial actions to clean up Lake Winnipeg, will reduce blue-green algae blooms; restore the lake's ecological integrity; reduce the number of beach closings; help maintain a sustainable fishery; and provide a clean lake for recreation.

Lake Winnipeg is fed by a vast basin covering 960,000 square kilometres extending over four provinces and four states. The problems facing the lake are due to inputs of excessive quantities of nutrients, notably phosphorous and nitrogen, from farms and municipal wastewater; more than half of these discharges originate outside Manitoba's borders.

These high nutrient levels are contributing to the growth of huge tracts of blue-green algae, which rob the lake of oxygen, clog fishing nets, foul beaches and produce harmful toxins. Satellite images of the lake over the last decade have shown a worsening trend, with blue-green algae at times covering more than half the surface area or about 13,000 square kilometres.

The government will also create a new Water Stewardship Fund for the Lake Winnipeg basin. The fund will be used to support cost-shared projects aimed at reducing nutrient loads through actions taken by stakeholder and community groups. This basin-wide initiative will include participation from stakeholders within four provinces.

To help restore the health of Lake Winnipeg, the federal government is also negotiating an agreement with Manitoba to improve collaborative efforts to improve the water quality and long term sustainability of the lake.

In New Brunswick, meanwhile, $751,000 is being provided under the federal Action Plan for Clean Water to support four initiatives of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment. This funding is part of a total investment of $61.5 million over five years to improve the health of Canada's oceans.

The four initiatives receiving support are part of a joint Canada-U.S. five-year action plan implemented through the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.

*The Climate Change Network is working to increase awareness concerning projections of how climate change will affect the region and on developing strategies for adapting to these impacts. Its current priorities include preparing regional criteria to identify coastal habitats at risk from rising sea levels and other climate change impacts.

*Gulfwatch is a special program for the joint monitoring of toxic chemicals in the transboundary ocean waters. The new funding will help the program better track the presence and effects of toxic contaminants, in turn providing quality data as a basis for improved decision-making in the coastal waters area.

*The Ecosystem Indicators Partnership is developing indicators about the nature of the ecosystem of the Gulf of Maine and integrating data for a new Internet-based system for reporting marine ecosystem and state-of-the-environment information.

*Finally, the Council's Public Education and Outreach committee is receiving support to develop and disseminate fact sheets and other public information and awareness materials. The committee also maintains and updates the Council's Web site, www.gulfofmaine.org.

Created in 1989, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment is a co-operative effort of the Canadian and U.S. governments, two provincial and three state governments, academic institutions, non-government organizations and private sector organizations throughout the Gulf of Maine cross-border ecosystem area. The Council's Action Plan for 2007-2012 has three major goals:

*to protect and restore coastal and ocean habitats to a healthy, productive and resilient condition;

*to foster environmental conditions in the Gulf of Maine that support both ecosystem and human health; and

*support vibrant coastal communities in the Gulf of Maine area, with healthy, globally competitive marine-dependent industries.

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