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Derek Coronado
Derek Coronado

Great Lakes protection bill lauded

By Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star, June 8, 2012

Provincial legislation aimed at protecting the Great Lakes is a major step in helping protect drinking water and attacking environmental issues caused by climate change, says a local environmentalist.

Environment Minister Jim Bradley has introduced the Great Lakes Protection Act which he says will provide new tools to enhance beaches, wetlands and water quality.

"Ontario relies on the Great Lakes for our strength and success," Bradley said. "The government is acting to protect our lakes and restore them to environmental health."

Derek Coronado of Windsor's Citizen Environment Alliance was consulted during the formation of the legislation and applauded the direction it takes in finally addressing a growing number of concerns.

Population growth, toxins, invasive species, pollution and climate change are harming the waterway and legislation is long overdue, he said Thursday.

"It's an important step," Coronado said. "It's important to have legislation specific to the Great Lakes. We've never had that before.

"Now, hopefully we will see funding put in place to carry through on this commitment to the Great Lakes. That needs to be there, otherwise this will just sit there as a paper document."

The legislation - first reading took place this week - would establish a Great Lakes Community Action Fund that would provide $1.5 million in the first year to community groups for projects.

It will also establish a Great Lakes Guardian Council that would include representatives from surrounding cities, the farming community and First Nations that will identify priorities.

An increasing number of attempts are being made to address environmental issues on the Great Lakes - most notably involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which last week formed a Great Lakes advisory board.

The Great Lakes has also received a $1-billion commitment from Congress to address ongoing issues, including $300 million for the next fiscal year.

More than 80 per cent of Ontarians get their drinking water from the Great Lakes, while its commercial fisheries are worth $200 million annually.

"In some areas we are making progress, but the problem is we have not moved fast enough, so now we are dealing with other issues compounding the problems - specifically those caused by climate change," Coronado said.

"There are incredible changes that are happening," he said.

He cited a growing food chain collapse in Lake Huron caused by less winter ice cover and greater evaporation as one example.

Copyright (c) The Windsor Star