Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini was in Bradford West Gwillimbury Wednesday morning to announce the province's commitment of $24 million over the next three years for the Holland Marsh Phosphorous Recycling Facility project.
"It's great to be here today for this historic announcement," said Piccini. "This is the single largest initiative in Ontario's history to reduce phosphorus in this lake."
The proposed facility will reduce phosphorus runoff from the Holland Marsh basin into the Holland River and Lake Simcoe by up to 85 per cent, removing an estimated 10 tonnes per year.
According to the Ontario Government's Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, released in 2009, the goal is to have Lake Simcoe's phosphorus pollution reduced by 50 per cent to 44 tonnes a year, which is needed to protect the cold-water fishery and to prevent excessive weed growth and algae blooms.
"We know that building local infrastructure supports stronger and safer communities, and our government is building Ontario and that means investing in our communities like Bradford and many others across the region," said Piccini. "We recognize that Lake Simcoe and its watershed are still being impacted by phosphorus overflow, which can be harmful to people and the environment."
Bradford West Gwillimbury Coun. Jonathan Scott and Georgina Coun. Dave Neeson put forward motions last year calling for the $40 million project — being proposed by York Region — to move forward, with support from surrounding municipalities like East Gwillimbury, Innisfil, Barrie and Orillia.
Scott acknowledged the local farmers who have shown leadership in helping to reduce phosphorus from their activities and that most of the runoff has come from the residential and commercial growth of the region over the past decade.
“It is fantastic news that the provincial government will be funding roughly 60 per cent of the project costs. This project is crucial for the health of the watershed, its ecosystems, and the economic drivers of our region including tourism, recreation and agriculture, industries that have already done a lot to reduce its own phosphorus runoffs," he said.
Neeson called the announcement "an absolute game-changer" for the health of the lake and its watershed.
“I want to personally thank and congratulate Minister Piccini and MPP (Caroline) Mulroney for their demonstrated leadership in delivering this critical piece of environmental infrastructure," he said.
“As our communities grow, our infrastructure needs to keep up with it," noted Andrea Khanjin, Barrie-Innisfil MPP and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “This innovative facility will go a long way to improving water quality in the Holland River that contributes to the overall health of the lake so it can continue to be enjoyed by everyone.”
She thanked Piccini for his efforts in getting funding for the project.
"I am so grateful because Lake Simcoe is the jewel of our region," she said.
"Today's announcement is a huge win for York-Simcoe," said York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney.
She said building infrastructure like the recycling facility, is the key to unlocking the potential of towns and cities across the province.
"It not only helps create good local jobs, and keeps our economy strong but it can also play a significant role in protecting green spaces and watersheds too," she said.
She said the phosphorus recycling facility will protect Lake Simcoe for generations to come.
"But that's not the only thing that we are doing to protect the natural environment here in York-Simcoe," said Mulroney, noting the government's recent completion of the land transfer for the North Gwillimbury Forest to protect 890 acres of land from development, forever.
"York-Simcoe is a growing community and that's why our government, unlike any other in the past, is striking the right balance between building vital infrastructure like highways, hospitals and housing while also growing the Greenbelt and protecting Lake Simcoe so that we can meet our full potential and thrive as a community."
“The Holland Marsh Growers’ Association commends the Ontario government for their investment in the reduction of phosphorous in Lake Simcoe. For over a decade the agriculture producers in the Holland Marsh, have been working to reduce their impact,” said Quinton Woods, chair of the Holland Marsh Growers. “From all Growers in the Holland Marsh, we are thankful the Ontario Government is finally taking the phosphorous issue in Lake Simcoe as serious as our Growers have been.”
The federal government has already committed up to $16 million for the phosphorus recycling facility project. The facility is to be built on the Holland River between Bradford and King, but an exact location has yet to be determined. Next steps for the project include a streamlined municipal class EA.
"This will get started right away and we look forward to completion," said Piccini.