Ministers Baird, Toews and Bezan announce Government's additional investment in Lake Winnipeg cleanup



    WINNIPEG, Nov. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - The Honourable John Baird, Minister of
the Environment and the Honourable Vic Toews, President of the Treasury Board,
announced today that the Government of Canada is ramping up its support to
clean up Lake Winnipeg. The Government will be investing $18 million under the
Action Plan for Clean Water to fix serious water quality problems affecting
the lake. This is an additional $11 million to the $7 million already
committed by this Government.
    "Our Government is taking real action to protect and preserve our
environment for all Canadians," said Minister Baird. "Today's investment is
another concrete step towards restoring the health of Lake Winnipeg. Local MPs
like James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake) have fought hard for the clean up of Lake
Winnipeg, and today's announcement reinforces our commitment to protect
Canadian waters under the Action Plan for Clean Water."
    The increased funding for the clean up 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 contributions in
watersheds. The Government will also expand and improve the network of water
monitoring sites in the basin area. Through these measures the Government
hopes to reduce blue-green algae levels; restore the ecological integrity of
the lake, ensure a sustainable fishery, and reduce beach closures.
    "Work is underway on a number of fronts to address the water quality
problems in Lake Winnipeg and its contributing watersheds, but there is still
a lot more to be done," said Minister Toews. "Our Government is committed to
delivering real results for Manitobans. Today's investment of $18 million over
the next five years will help reduce pollution and restore the health of Lake
Winnipeg."
    This major investment to clean up Lake Winnipeg is part of the Government
of Canada's Action Plan for Clean Water. Recently, the Government has also
taken action to protect water quality including tough new regulations against
the dumping of raw sewage and improving raw sewage treatment in municipalities
and first nation communities across Canada. These measures will help filter
out substances like phosphates, which can lead to excessive blue-green algae
production.
    A backgrounder on the Lake Winnipeg initiative is available at
www.ec.gc.ca

    (Egalement offert en français)

    
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                                 BACKGROUNDER
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         CLEANING UP LAKE WINNIPEG -
                     PART OF THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA'S
                         ACTION PLAN FOR CLEAN WATER

    With an investment of $18 million over the next five years, our Government
is taking real action to clean up Canada`s sixth largest freshwater - Lake
Winnipeg. Through this renewed commitment our Government will take a
science-based approach to better understand how to solve this serious water
quality issues facing this vital watershed.
    It is expected that this initiative, accompanied by provincial actions to
clean up Lake Winnipeg, will:

    - reduce blue-green algae blooms;
    - result in fewer beach closings;
    - keep in place a sustainable fishery;
    - provide a clean lake for recreation; and
    - restore the ecological integrity of the lake.
    

    Lake Winnipeg is fed by a vast basin covering 960 thousand square
kilometers extending over four provinces and four states. The problems facing
the lake are the result of excessive phosphorous and nitrogen from farms and
municipal waste water ending up in the lake, more than half of which originate
outside Manitoba's borders.
    The excessive phosphorus and nitrogen, also known as nutrients, 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 show a worsening trend with
blue-green algae, at times, covering more than half the surface area or about
13,000 square kilometers.
    The funding announced today will assist scientists to better understand
how nutrient contributions can be controlled in the watershed and how
nutrients affect the ecology of the lake. 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
improve the monitoring network by creating a number of new sites and improving
existing sites.
    The Government will also create a new Water Stewardship Fund for the Lake
Winnipeg Basin. The fund will be used to support cost-share projects that
focus on 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
Government of Canada is negotiating an agreement with Manitoba to improve how
we work together to improve the water quality and long term sustainability of
the lake.




For further information:

For further information: Eric Richer, Press Secretary, Office of the
Minister of the Environment, (819) 997-1441; Media Relations, Environment
Canada, (819) 934-8008, 1-888-908-8008


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