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This article was published 2/6/2011 (4044 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba hog farmers felt like they had giant targets on their backs Thursday as the province announced its Lake Winnipeg cleanup plan.
Premier Greg Selinger made the industry the centrepiece of a three-pronged effort to reduce phosphorus levels in the lake by 50 per cent.
Scientists say high phosphorus levels have caused toxic algae blooms that will kill Lake Winnipeg if no action is taken.
At a news conference, Selinger said research shows hog manure spreading is the "biggest single risk to Lake Winnipeg." The government will ban hog industry expansion that is not accompanied by advanced environmental practices, he said.
"We want the industry to be able to function... but we want safe environmental practices," the premier said. The government will introduce legislation this session to implement its planned changes, he said.
Hog producers reacted bitterly. They said with a provincial election only four months away, the premier is playing politics at their expense.
"It may be looked at as a favourable thing to beat up on the hog industry to win votes," said Karl Kynoch, a Baldur farmer and chairman of Manitoba Pork, an industry lobby group.
Rick Bergmann, a partner in a Steinbach-area hog farm, said the government seems to think that "every hog farmer is guilty of doing a lot of bad things (to) the environment.
"There's a lot of sources (of lake phosphorus) that are part of the problem, and the minor source (hogs) seems to have had all the attention," he said.
The government announcement came two days after the release of a report, led by University of Regina biologist Peter Leavitt, that blames Manitoba crop and livestock production for at least half of Lake Winnipeg's phosphorus problem. The report said phosphorus loading must quickly be addressed on the lake to avoid uncontrolled algae growth and the production of deadly toxins.
Several years ago, the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board, citing internal government research, estimated that agriculture in Manitoba accounted for just 15 per cent of the lake nutrient problem. The hog industry's contribution was but a fraction of that, the stewardship board's report said.
Don Flaten, a LWSB board member and University of Manitoba soil scientist, said Thursday that he has "some reservations" about Leavitt's study. He said some of the statistical techniques the U of R academic used "don't necessarily prove cause and effect."
Flaten said virtually everyone -- small-town residents and big-city folks, grain growers and cattle producers and, yes, the hog sector -- contributes to the problem. Within agriculture, earlier research shows 85 per cent of the phosphorus applied to soils is from commercial fertilizer, he said.
"It's our cumulative contributions that are creating the problem," Flaten said. "If we just pick on a few hundred pig producers, we're not going to make much progress with the lake."
As well as tackling hog manure, the province promised to improve nutrient-filtering wetlands, notably the Netley-Libau Marsh, and to require the City of Winnipeg to modernize its North End Sewage Treatment Plant.
The government will also consult with municipalities to ensure that municipal sewage plants and lagoons meet phosphorus-removal targets, officials said.
The province said it would also host an international summit to bring together stakeholders and various levels of government in the vast Lake Winnipeg watershed to co-ordinate phosphorus reduction.
Lake Winnipeg cleanup plan
The province will ban hog industry expansion that does not use advanced water protection practices.
It will enshrine in law a planned regulatory ban on the winter spreading of manure for 2013.
It will introduce a new tax credit, among other incentives, for livestock farmers who use advanced technologies to "treat manure responsibly."
The city will be required to replace its North End Sewage Treatment Plant with a full biological nutrient removal facility to keep pollutants out of the lake. The plant would focus on phosphorus and ammonia removal, not nitrogen.
The city will be required to produce a plan within a year that outlines how it will build the biological nutrient removal plant to meet required pollutant removal targets.
The province will pass a law to ensure no new subdivisions outside city limits are built without an approved wastewater management plan.
The province will help restore "natural filters" such as the Netley-Libau Marsh immediately south of Lake Winnipeg to keep pollutants from entering the lake.
It will invest in a pilot project that will demonstrate the benefit of the annual harvest of marsh cattails, which soak up nutrients like phosphorus.
It vows to protect wetlands on Crown lands.
It will ban the "rapid expansion" of peat extraction from wetlands.