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Dubious nomination for Lake Winnipeg

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It's a distinction that won't entice you to put a bathing suit and go for a dip this summer -- Lake Winnipeg is in the running for Threatened Lake of the Year 2013, according to a German environmental group.

Past winners include Lake Titicaca in South America, Lake Victoria in Africa and the Dead Sea in the Middle East, the Global Nature Fund said Thursday.

The 'winners'

FORMER Threatened Lakes Of the Year:

  • 2012: Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru
  • 2011: Laguna de Fúquene, Colombia
  • 2010: Pulicat Lake, India
  • 2009: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
  • 2008: Mahakam Wetlands, Indonesia
  • 2007: Pantanal, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia
  • 2006: Dead Sea, Israel, Jordan and Palestine
  • 2005: Lake Victoria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
  • 2004: Lake Chapala, Mexico

The organization said the Lake Winnipeg nomination was made by its affiliate, Living Lakes Canada. In recent years, the lake has been plagued by huge blueish-green algae blooms caused by excess nutrients such as phosphorus flowing into the lake.

"Many people in Germany and throughout Europe believe environmental problems hardly occur in Canada," Global Nature Fund executive director Udo Gattenloehner said in a statement. "However, recent changes in Canadian policies seem to be eroding the protection particularly of vulnerable water ecosystems -- and it is disappointing because this does not really fit with our image of Canada."

The Threatened Lake of the Year will be picked Feb. 2 on World Wetland Day.

The nomination comes about two weeks after the Manitoba government dismissed an appeal of an environmental licence for a private boat channel at Beaconia on Lake Winnipeg. The notice by Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh came almost two years after area residents complained it would destroy a lakeside marsh.

Vicki Burns of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation said the nomination and Mackintosh's decision are signals there's more wrong with the lake than right. Burns said she's asked Mackintosh for an explanation of his decision and for copies of the reports by government scientists on the channel.

Burns said she wants scientists from the foundation's science advisory council to do an independent evaluation of the government's work.

"We need to have all the facts on the table," Burns said. "It's terribly important for Lake Winnipeg because what happens on the shoreline of the lake is the last defence before the additional or excess nutrients or pollutants actually get into the lake's water."

Lake Winnipeg is the 10th-largest freshwater lake in the world.

Its future will also be discussed Jan. 22-24 at the annual Red River Basin Land & Water International Summit Conference in Grand Forks. On the agenda is how water quality in the Red River Basin and the lake's watershed can be improved.

Recently, Premier Greg Selinger said there is considerable interest south of the border in collaborating with Manitoba to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2013 A9


Updated on Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:53 AM CST: adds fact box

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