GRAVENHURST: The Ontario government is investing more than $4.25 million to further protect the Muskoka River Watershed.
The funding will support projects that will help safeguard the region from environmental pressures, such as severe weather and flooding, while also improving the health of the watershed, a key commitment in the Made-inOntario Environment Plan.
“The Muskoka Region is one of Ontario’s crown jewels, and we want to ensure that we continue to protect its environment which is so important to the local economy and the great people who live there,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“This investment will help protect this area known around the world for its spectacular lakes and rivers so it can continue to be a thriving hub for Ontario’s tourism industry.”
The Ontario government is funding 16 projects led by the District of Muskoka and the Town of Bracebridge, as part of the province’s initial $5 million commitment to the Muskoka Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative. Approximately $750,000 will support other projects that are in development.
“We are protecting the Muskoka River Watershed while supporting the local economy and its $400-million recreational and tourism industry,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
“By funding these projects and working with the local community, we are supporting this vital region in Ontario and ensuring its water resources are protected now and for future generations.”
Following careful review and consideration of the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group’s recommendations, the government selected projects that support the development and implementation of the Muskoka Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative.
Some of these projects include:
• Developing an Integrated Watershed Management approach for the Muskoka River Watershed to help improve water quality and quantity management, including measures to help reduce the impacts of flooding.
• Mapping areas of shoreline erosion and fluctuating water levels throughout the entire Muskoka River Watershed to identify areas prone to flooding, which could inform local flood mitigation efforts.
• Developing watershed-scale health indicators that reflect environmental, economic and social goals to support evidence-based decision making in the Muskoka River Watershed.
• Improving understanding of erosion and sedimentation in the Muskoka River Delta in order to develop a range of options which could improve navigation for boats. Additional information regarding the funding of future projects through the Muskoka Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative will be provided in the near future.
• In August 2018, Ontario announced a $5 million Muskoka Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative to better identify risks and issues facing the Muskoka Region.
• In August 2019, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks established the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group to help identify risks and issues facing the watershed and to collaborate to protect the environment and support economic growth in the region.
• The Advisory Group provided advice on priority actions and projects to support the Muskoka initiative in their report to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks in summer 2020. This advice was informed by input from over 60 different organizations.
• The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy in March 2020 which outlines steps the Ontario government will take with its partners over the coming years to reduce flood risk and help people better prepare for flooding events. The Flooding Strategy also draws on the expert advice of Doug McNeil, Ontario’s Special Advisor on Flooding.
• The Muskoka River Watershed consists of 15 sub-watersheds, measuring about 62 km by 120 km, that discharges into the southeastern shores of Georgian Bay.
• Ontario invests approximately $14 million per year in actions to protect and restore the Great Lakes, including projects that support commitments in Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy and the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health.
Mardi Witzel, Chair of the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group, said: “We are thrilled the provincial government is making this financial commitment to support the development of a comprehensive approach to the management of the Muskoka River Watershed. This funding will enable the research, planning and execution of key initiatives relating to water levels, water quality and terrestrial concerns. We look forward to continuing to work with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and with local community partners who are already doing vital work to protect the health of the watershed for the benefit of future generations.”