Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

$1.1M for Lake Winnipeg

Federal cash to be used for 14 projects to ensure healthy future

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OAK HAMMOCK MARSH -- Robert Kristjanson's family has fished on Lake Winnipeg for five generations.

Kristjanson, himself, has fished for 61 years on the sixth-largest lake in the country and he has witnessed its decline from a relatively clean body of water to one where half the surface is covered with huge blooms of toxic blue-green algae.

Kristjanson, who listened as Treasury Board President Vic Toews announced during a press conference here that 14 projects to help Lake Winnipeg would get a total of $1.1 million in funding, said the biggest announcement was unspoken, but easy to see.

"The biggest step is now we have the federal people here," Kristjanson said on Thursday, pointing at Toews.

"The province has to be given credit for what they've done so far, but you have to have the federal government in this. This is monstrous for us. It's a good first step.

"This is one of the most important things that has ever happened to Lake Winnipeg."

Kristjanson, who was named to a new federal advisory committee to give advice to the federal environment minister on future project proposals to be funded, said he looks at the $1.1 million, which came out of a previously announced $18 million, as the first of more money to come.

"It's the opening of the door," he said. "Lets keep doing it."

Earlier, Toews said the 14 projects to receive funding "will help ensure a healthy future for Lake Winnipeg.

"We support projects that show demonstrative results."

The projects include:

"ö $25,000 to reduce runoff of nutrients into the Icelandic River and Washbow Bay Creek by putting up fencing and providing different water sources for cattle

"ö $25,000 to the University of Manitoba for a study to look at Lake Manitoba's water quality to get a basis for gauging nitrogen and phosphorus reduction, which could also be used to measure initiatives on Lake Winnipeg

"ö $132,000 to put a greenhouse-type structure over a waste-water pond to adapt it to the province's climate

"ö $379,000 to Ducks Unlimited to study the Broughton's Creek watershed, north of Brandon, and figure out a way to put a monetary value on wetland restoration.

But Liberal MP Anita Neville criticized the Harper government, saying it has taken more than two years since the cash was announced for the first projects to be funded.

The Harper government announced $7 million in March 2007 for the lake, but after criticism in this province that Ontario's Lake Simcoe -- 33 times smaller than Lake Winnipeg -- received $12 million, the federal government added another $11 million in November 2007.

"It's part of this government's pattern of smoke and mirrors," Neville said.

"They announce, re-announce, and re-announce again... they are dribbling it out."

Toews said the total $18-million program is added to the "tens and hundreds of millions of dollars we intend to put into water and sewer projects across the province. He said a portion of the money was spent last year and this by Environment Canada, which is studying the lake using the Namao research ship.

"Virtually every sewer and water project in the province can help out Lake Winnipeg," he said.

"If it was only $18 million, I would agree with Anita Neville, but there's more."

Henry Murkin, of Ducks Unlimited, said he's hoping their project will in future help governments determine the real costs of allowing developments or expanding farmland on wetlands.

Greg Bruce of Ducks Unlimited said the loss of wetlands in the province means the amount of phosphorus currently getting into Lake Winnipeg each year is now the equivalent of 10 semi loads of commercial agricultural fertilizer being dumped into it.

Other members of the advisory committee include Chief David Crate of the Fisher River First Nation, Al Kristofferson of the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium, and Marlene Cook, Selkirk's deputy mayor.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2009 A3

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