Minister’s message

Lake Simcoe, known by Huron language in the 17th century as “Ouentironk” or “beautiful water”, is home to the Chippewas of Georgina Island, an Anishinaabeg community located on the southern part of its shores. Serving more than a source of water – Lake Simcoe is a lifeline for the many communities that depend on it. This has been underscored by a total commitment by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks of about $2.1 million for projects that are keeping Lake Simcoe clean. The funding has been given to Lake Simcoe partners like the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority which has received a total of about $1.6 million in funding for projects to enhance stormwater management and help reduce phosphorus pollution. Protecting and restoring the lake and its watershed has been one of our government’s top priorities to ensure a sustainable future for Ontarians.

Our annual report highlights the ongoing efforts our government has been making in partnership with Indigenous communities, municipalities, local conservation authorities, agricultural and commercial sectors, and residents to implement the Lake Simcoe Action Plan. Public engagement has played an important role in the legislated review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This represented the largest and most comprehensive review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act since the act came into force. In 2020 and 2021, people living within the watershed and all who have an interest in the health of the lake were encouraged to have their say in how we move forward with implementing the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. We want to thank everyone for participating in this review and sharing their feedback and knowledge about the evolving science of the lake and the actions taken to restore Lake Simcoe and its watershed.

Some highlights of actions taken in 2021-2022 include:

  • supporting monitoring and science on water quality research and data collection
  • improving water quality and soil health by designing and implementing best management practices to mitigate potential impacts to the watershed
  • investing in efforts to reduce road salt run-off into Lake Simcoe
  • protecting and enhancing natural heritage and the successful reproduction of cold-water fish such as lake trout, lake whitefish and cisco

Looking ahead, we know there is more to be done to build on our progress.

In 2021 and 2022, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks committed about $26.1 million to protect and restore Lake Simcoe, including a commitment by Ontario of a $24-million investment for a new phosphorus reduction project to help reduce phosphorus discharges from the Holland River into Lake Simcoe by up to five tonnes of phosphorus annually. The idea has been in the works for decades and we are getting it done.

Safeguarding our environment, and Lake Simcoe in particular, requires a whole-of-government approach. The collaborative work between our ministry and all partners have enabled us to deliver on the commitments in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. I am confident that by continuing to work together, we can achieve our shared goal of protecting Lake Simcoe now and for generations to come.


Ontario continues to invest in provincial programs and partner-led projects that support priority environmental actions in the Lake Simcoe watershed. Since the Lake Simcoe Protection Act (LSPA) was passed in 2008, Ontario has invested annually in the municipalities in the watershed, the local conservation authority, non-government organizations and universities, and many others to deliver on shared commitments under the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP).

The 2021-2022 annual report describes the measures that have been taken to implement the LSPP. Routine monitoring and research indicate that substantial progress has been made to improve water quality in Lake Simcoe as a result of the investments made in Lake Simcoe. While phosphorus loadings fluctuate, phosphorus concentrations continue to decline. Research also reflects that the lake is changing because of impacts from climate and invasive species.

The report also highlights the conversations we engaged with the public and stakeholders about the 10-year review of the LSPP. Insights gained from the review are informing how we monitor and support activities on the ground to better protect and restore Lake Simcoe.

The Lake Simcoe Science Committee and the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee have contributed to the implementation of the LSPP over the last decade. You will read about their recommendations on how to continue to protect and restore the lake, as well as the review of both committees’ functions.

The province recognizes the importance of working with watershed partners to implement the LSPP policies to protect and restore Lake Simcoe. Together, we have implemented these policies and, for those policies that involve ongoing work, we continue to monitor and support activities on the ground.

Read on to learn more about our progress in 2021 and 2022 towards implementing the LSPP priorities, such as improving water quality and restoring aquatic health and enhancing natural heritage.

10-year review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan

From December 2020 to March 2021, we invited the public and other stakeholders to participate in the 10-year review of the LSPP.

During this period, we engaged with:

  • local municipalities
  • the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA)
  • public bodies
  • Indigenous communities
  • key sectors
  • the Lake Simcoe Science Committee
  • the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee
  • the public

Engagement highlights included:

  • 75-day posting on the Environmental Registry of Ontario
  • more than 1,000 completed public online surveys
  • more than 3,300 written submissions received from stakeholders and the public
  • about 290 people shared ideas at a virtual town hall event
  • 41 agriculture, tourism, small business, development organizations and Indigenous partners participated in 5 consultation sessions
  • 160 science and technical partners participated in a virtual Lake Simcoe science event
  • 3 joint meetings of the Lake Simcoe Science Committee and Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee

The public engagements enabled the province to share the latest science and knowledge such as the changes happening in the biology of the lake and some of the assumptions that we held about the relationship between phosphorus and dissolved oxygen.

Moving forward, the province is continuing to invest in projects to reduce phosphorus loads to the lake and science and monitoring to better understand these relationships.

Updating monitoring and science on water quality

The province listened to the information received during the 10-year review and is following the recommendation from the Lake Simcoe Science Committee continue to actively support research and data collection on water quality, water quantity and aquatic life, including studying the relationships between phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, water quality and aquatic life. The province continues to conduct routine environmental monitoring to help improve knowledge about the changes observed in the lake.

In 2021 and 2022, the province:

  • Continued to monitor water quality in Lake Simcoe, as well as the phytoplankton (i.e., algae) and zooplankton (small animals that eat the phytoplankton and are food for fish). This builds on the data collected by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for over 40 years that are made available to the public at Lake Simcoe Monitoring – Dataset – Ontario Data Catalogue and reported every 5 years in the minister’s technical monitoring report on Lake Simcoe. The information is being used to track changes in the lake and watershed over time, support research in key areas, and help inform our adaptive management approach. Trends in key indicators of lake health, total phosphorus concentration and dissolved oxygen concentration show improvements since the 1980s. Phosphorus concentrations continued to be low in 2021 and 2022, although deep-water dissolved oxygen concentrations were not as high in 2021 and 2022 as in 2020. These dissolved oxygen concentrations are a key performance indicator for Ontario; the 2021 and 2022 concentrations are reported in Published plans and annual reports 2022-2023: Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
  • Committed $745,000 over 3 years to continue supporting LSRCA’s monitoring of water quality and aquatic communities in tributary streams. Monitoring projects enable LSRCA to evaluate progress achieving the LSPP water quality and aquatic health related targets and indicators.
  • With LSRCA, continued to study the recent changes in the lake that have disrupted the relationships connecting the amount of phosphorus entering the lake and conditions in the lake, such as phosphorus loadings and deep water dissolved oxygen levels. Phosphorus loads are an estimate of all phosphorus entering the lake each year. The most recent phosphorus loads report is available at Phosphorus Loads Update - Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.
  • Provided $192,500 to the University of Guelph to conduct research on measurement techniques of microplastics in agricultural soils and organic amendments, and to develop new techniques to extract plastics from soil for measurement. The key findings indicate that plastics are accumulating in soils from organic amendment sources. The results were presented at the 2022 World Congress of Soil Science.
  • Contributed to 3 scientific articles published in 2022 on the Lake Simcoe ecosystem that studied long-term changes in water quality, the seasonal and spatial distribution of the zooplankton community, and microplastics in fish.

Improving water quality

Reducing phosphorus remains a priority. However, phosphorus is not the only threat to water quality. There is growing attention being given to other contaminants that affect water quality, such as chloride from road salt, which continues to increase in the lake, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, bacteria like E. coli, and microplastics.

To ensure improvement to overall water quality, in addition to the phosphorus reduction efforts, the province continues to support watershed partners in their work to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the lake and improve water quality. This includes projects such as designing and implementing stormwater best management practices, and reducing road salt, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, bacteria and microplastics. In 2021 and 2022, the province:

Supported the agricultural community:

  • Provided $365,000 to the Holland Marsh Growers Association to identify 7 areas for potential water use efficiencies among vegetable packers; develop a strategy to minimize soil loss during carrot harvesting; develop a soil health strategy; and investigate first steps for plastic recovery and reuse in the Holland Marsh vegetable production.
  • Provided the Ontario Soil Network with nearly $54,000 in funding to develop their Ontario Soil Leaders Program and Network in the Lake Simcoe region. This will support farmer networks to improve soil quality through peer-to-peer learning. The goal was to train innovative farmers in the Lake Simcoe watershed and across the province, to be leaders in demonstrating their experience with best management practices to other farmers.
  • Provided nearly $100,000 to Kawartha Conservation to support 4 agricultural demonstration projects in the Talbot River watershed to promote best management practices for watershed farmers that were easy to implement, were relatively low cost, and improved water quality in Lake Simcoe tributaries. Part of the work also involved monitoring local water quality near the demonstration sites and using this information for awareness and education.

Invested in efforts to reduce salt run-off into Lake Simcoe:

  • Hosted 5 consultations with experts, industry and non-profits in March 2022 to gather information on factors driving the over-application of road salt, barriers to adopting best practices, and ideas for optimizing road salt through winter maintenance practice. Participants emphasized the importance of promoting public education, professional training, and industry led certification in the use of best practices.
  • Encouraged the adoption of leading winter maintenance practices that reduce salt levels in the Lake Simcoe watershed over the long-term, by supporting the Smart About Salt Council’s training and certification program with nearly $35,000 in funding. Smart About Salt is an award-winning not-for-profit program designed to promote improved safe snow and ice control practices on parking lots and sidewalks to reduce the amount of road salt entering the environment.
  • Provided almost $200,000 in funding to support LSRCA’s efforts to improve public awareness of the benefits of using winter maintenance best practices and salt alternatives that ensure safety and reduce the environmental impact of salt on Lake Simcoe and its watershed.

Provided expertise and supported activities that minimize stormwater runoff to Lake Simcoe:

  • Provided over $250,000 to LSRCA to support efforts to improve municipal capacity in stormwater management. This included providing technical services to improve stormwater facility operations, training more than 400 inspectors and managers, and promoting adoption of management tools that reduce pollutants in stormwater before they enter waterways.
  • Provided nearly $115,000 to the Orillia Museum of Art and History to raise awareness about actions that community members can take to naturalize shorelines and reduce the impact on stormwater runoff to Lake Simcoe.
  • Provided $220,000 in funding to LSRCA to work with local municipalities on cross boundary stormwater impacts to the East Holland River watershed, located in the Lake Simcoe Basin. This innovative project was a major advancement in how stormwater infrastructure is planned and managed to meet phosphorus loading objectives.
  • Committed more than $200,000 to integrate green infrastructure designs into 5 stormwater restoration projects. LSRCA worked with landowners to design the restoration work to mitigate impacts of stormwater volumes and soil reduction.
  • Contributed over $150,000 to support the design of rural stormwater management plans that reduced surface runoff, siltation and phosphorus loading to the lake from agricultural properties in Beaverton and Ramara. This project also raised public awareness of the benefits of rural stormwater restoration activities on the health of streams and shorelines.

Continued to support ongoing phosphorous reduction efforts:

  • Announced the funding of $24 million over 3 years for a new phosphorus reduction project in the Lake Simcoe watershed. There is a total of $40 million in provincial and federal government commitments allocated toward the project. This new project will aim to reduce up to 5 tonnes of phosphorus from agricultural drainage water entering Lake Simcoe on an annual basis.
  • Tributaries contribute more than half of the phosphorus loading to Lake Simcoe. Almost $75,000 was provided to LSRCA to build the capacity of municipalities to develop monitoring plans and collect data about urban stormwater flow and phosphorus loading to tributaries of Lake Simcoe. This knowledge supports targeted phosphorus reduction efforts.
  • Supported projects to examine best management practices for optimizing sewage treatment plant performance, infrastructure decisions through the environmental and planning approval processes, and ensure sewage treatment plants are complying with annual phosphorus concentration and loading limits. Sewage treatment plant owners and operators continued to optimize or upgrade treatment processes to get the best possible reductions in phosphorus loads in 2021 and 2022.
  • Provided over $120,000 to the University of Western Ontario for a study to improve understanding of how phosphorus and other contaminants move from septic systems to nearby streams that flow into Lake Simcoe. Estimates indicate that there are more than 33,000 on-site septic systems in the watershed. The research project showed septic effluent contributions are higher during high discharge. Furthermore, older systems have a higher percentage of effluent that reaches waterways. Information from this study can be used by municipalities to raise awareness of the importance of regular inspection and maintaining of septic systems to reduce pollutant loadings to Lake Simcoe.

Protecting and enhancing natural heritage and restoring aquatic life

Protecting natural heritage features and restoring natural cover, and the connections between key natural heritage policies continue to be a vital part of our activities in the watershed and support the implementation of the LSPP.

The province supported the development of web-based tools to map natural heritage cover, research on natural cover and its role in providing ecosystem services, and municipal official plan conformity.

In 2021 and 2022, the province:

  • Provided $110,000 to the University of Toronto to improve public and stakeholder access to information on natural cover by creating a web-based system for storing and sharing information on natural cover in the Lake Simcoe watershed. The University also engaged local landowners, students and the public as 'citizen scientists' in monitoring efforts.
  • Supported the LSRCA in completing detailed geo-spatial analysis to support discussions during the 10-year review of the LSPP. The project described changes in land use, such as impervious cover (e.g., parking lots), and natural cover in the watershed. Findings showed that impervious cover and natural cover increased between 2003 and 2017.
  • Restored and enhanced watershed wetlands through the Wetlands Conservation Partner Program (WCPP). Launched in 2020, the WCPP is a $30 million investment in capital funding over 5 years for wetland restoration and enhancement across Ontario. In the first 2 years of the program, the WCPP supported 4 projects covering almost 484 acres in the Lake Simcoe watershed, led by Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. The largest of these projects, at 435 acres, is the Holland Marsh South Restoration led by Ducks Unlimited Canada. According to Ducks Unlimited Canada, this project will increase total acreage of wetlands and result in the retention of 1,267 kg/year of non-point phosphorus and 66,528 kg/year of non-point nitrogen after the wetland is restored.
  • Continued to support the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters in education and awareness initiatives to prevent and manage the impacts of invasive species in the Lake Simcoe watershed. This included development of an aquatic invasive species guide and video to raise awareness about the impacts of invasive species from an ecological, economic, and recreational perspective. Signage and information about new regulations and best practices for cleaning, draining and drying watercraft, as well as the use and disposal of bait were made available to partners (e.g., Fishing Simcoe, bait operators) and shared at various access points throughout the watershed.

Aquatic life is an important indicator of ecosystem health. Changing lake conditions, due to both natural and human impacts, have had significant implications for fisheries, resulting in changes in recreational uses and associated socio-economic benefits.

The province continues to support work to understand the aquatic health in both the tributaries and the lake.

In 2021-22, the province:

  • Reviewed the coldwater fish stocking program to ensure alignment with fisheries objectives and LSPP. Continued implementation of management actions aligned with the fish community objectives for Lake Simcoe and LSPP priorities.
  • Studied the behaviour and survival of stocked and wild lake trout and lake whitefish in Lake Simcoe, an array of 44 receivers were deployed throughout the lake to collect information on the movement of tagged fish. These receivers have since been downloaded, serviced and redeployed. Both short-term and long-term range testing has been conducted and is ongoing. In the fall of 2021, an additional 33 lake trout were surgically implanted with acoustic telemetry tags. In the fall of 2022, 4 more lake trout and 51 lake whitefishes were implanted with tags. Data analysis has been conducted on the receiver data that was collected in the spring of 2022.
  • Evaluated the status of the coldwater fish community by studying larval fish production, growth and diet. Conducted spring larval fish and plankton field sampling. Completed genetic identification and measurement of the larval fish and processing of plankton samples to look at plankton abundance and diversity. A graduate student is analyzing the data as part of their master’s thesis at Trent University.
  • Conducted annual monitoring of fish and fisheries, including summer and winter recreational angler surveys (creels) and netting to assess fish communities. This included small fish biodiversity sampling, Off Shore Benthic Index Netting, Near Shore Community Index Netting, and Broad-scale Monitoring. Lake Whitefish egg collections completed.
  • After several years of very few fish being caught and even fewer families being collected during the lake trout wild egg collections, the decision was made to stop attempting a wild egg collection for lake trout on Lake Simcoe. Further, Lake Simcoe lake trout were determined not to be genetically different than some of the strains of lake trout currently being stocked into the Great Lakes.
  • Developed a new protocol for interviewing anglers during the winter fishery when the ice isn't safe for assessment crews to conduct traditional roving surveys with snowmobiles.
  • Developed and programmed a new flexible statistical framework for calculating important winter fisheries indices such as angler activity and harvest rates. This framework allows for a wider use of possible survey types (such as snowmobile, access, aerial or mail) to obtain information from anglers. The framework is currently in review for publication in an American Fisheries Society book on angler surveys.


The province and its partners continue to make progress on our long-term commitment to restore and protect Lake Simcoe. However, there is still much to learn about the changes in the Lake Simcoe watershed and more work is needed to see long-term improvements. We will continue to use results of the ongoing scientific research and monitoring to inform our adaptive management approach as we work collaboratively to achieve the objectives of the LSPP.

Appendix: Recommendations from the Lake Simcoe Coordinating and Science Committees

The Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is supported by 2 advisory committees made up of scientific experts and key stakeholders in the watershed: The Lake Simcoe Science Committee and the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee. These committees provide advice to the Minister on the implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by the committees are solely those of the committee and do not reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the province.

Below are the recommendations provided to the Minister from both committees during the 10-year review of the LSPP.

Recommendations from Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee

At the August 12, 2021 meeting of the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee, the ministry requested that the committee consider the need to amend the plan. The Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee is pleased to provide you with our recommendations as to whether the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan requires amendment.

We have reviewed the minister’s 10-year plan on Lake Simcoe and have taken into consideration the information provided by the various provincial agencies and scientific literature.

Tremendous progress has been made during the last 10 years to enhance water quality and your ministry’s initiatives have clearly shown the importance of the plan and protecting and restoring the waters and watershed of Lake Simcoe. Despite the tremendous progress on many fronts, some of the identified targets in the plan have not been met and are difficult to ascertain the best approach to achieve them. We recommend that the ministry consider achievable interim targets with tangible, well-coordinated implementation of plans that will assist in satisfying the plans priorities. Some of the actions identified in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan require updating to advance the priorities identified in the 2009 plan. With this in mind, the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee would like to recommend that the minister and their staff review the 10-year plan.

The Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee looks forward to continuing to fulfil our mandate to provide the Minister with practical advice. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our chair.

Respectfully submitted by

Rob Hare, Chair, Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee

Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee members:

  • Willian Terrence Clayton
  • Avia Eek
  • John Hemsted
  • Anne Kell
  • Shelley Charles
  • Judy Carter
  • Suzanne Howes
  • Kathy MacPherson
  • Karen Hansen

Additional information regarding the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan amendment

The Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee has reviewed the latest research and moderate information made available and provided the following examples of ongoing concerns that would benefit from an amendment to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.

  • The established existing and future invading species have led to shifts in the Lake Simcoe ecosystem dynamics. There are currently 19 invasive species that have been identified in the lake to date which have changed and will continue to impact the lakes ecosystem. More education of the public is required to reduce the spread of invading species.
  • While some water quality parameters, such as total dissolved phosphorus concentrations are showing positive trends. The decline in those trends is not maintaining and if anything is slightly increasing. Phosphorus concentration levels vary from year to year and are above the 44 tonnes per year goal identified in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Is 44 tonnes per year of phosphorus an achievable sustainable goal? Should this target goal be revisited?
  • Chloride levels from several identified sources continue to rise. Continued best management practices for the application of chloride to the roads is highly recommended.
  • Total dissolved oxygen levels have increased and are now closer to the 7 mg/L target, which is critical into the restoration of coldwater fisheries. The recent improvement cannot be attributed to the reduced phosphorus loading and should be not considered as permanent or sustainable.
  • There have been some anecdotal observations made by anglers that the warm water fishery, in particular yellow perch and smallmouth, are under stress. Observations by anglers, indicate that yellow perch numbers and smallmouth bass numbers are declining due to possible predation impacts of eggs and fry by round goby.
  • Climate change continues to be a major stressor on the lake’s ecosystem and the resulting impacts on the ecosystem are poorly understood. Continue monitoring and research along with adaptive management plans and practices are essential to counteract the impacts of climate change.

Examples of reasons why an amendment to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is needed

  • The impacts of climate change by increasing water temperature and clarity of the lake are dramatic. Increased water temperatures and clarity promote the growth of invasive species which have negative impacts.
  • Best management practices pertaining to phosphorus levels need to be developed or updated and implemented. The installation of a Holland Marsh runoff water treatment plant must be implemented. The installation of a water treatment plant for the Holland Marsh would impact water quality in the lake. Research into methods to capture and contain phosphorus need to be enhanced. More education is required to assist in reducing phosphorus runoff from urban areas. This education process could be undertaken with partners such as the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.
  • There are currently 14 municipal and 1 industrial sewage treatment plants in the Lake Simcoe watershed. Seven of these plants discharge treated water into Lake Simcoe while 8 others discharge into water courses that eventually drain into the lake. Those sewage treatment plants need to ensure that they follow the best practices.
  • Greater emphasis on education of application of chloride to hard surfaces (roads) in parking lots will directly impact the water quality entering the lake. Expanding the Salt Smart Program currently offered by the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority would be highly recommend.
  • In 2012, the Lake Simcoe Science Committee recommended that the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks focus on improving our understanding of the number of septic tanks near water courses and how phosphorus migrates from septic systems. A plan was implemented in the Ontario Building Code that required for all septic systems within 100 metres of Lake Simcoe be inspected and upgraded, if necessary, by 2015. The ministry needs to ensure follow-up to these inspections to those septic systems as well as the requirement to have those tanks pumped and re-inspected every 5 years.
  • Forest cover programs need to be continued and focused to ensure that the goals set out are achieved or exceeded. Partners such as LEAF and the Lake Simcoe Seedlings Programs would be very beneficial to meeting target goals.
  • Farmers in northern parts of Simcoe County are allowing the County to spread bio solids from wastewater treatment plants onto till under field surfaces. Spreading these biosolids which is in its liquid form with 4% solids, onto tilled fields prevents runoff and odor. Unfortunately, this puts farmers into conflict with the MECP staff. We recommend that the minister and their staff look into this practice and advise the County and farmers of their concerns.

Recommendations from Lake Simcoe Science Committee

At the August 12, 2021 meeting of the Lake Simcoe Science and Coordinating Committees, the ministry requested the committee to consider the need for amending the plan. The Lake Simcoe Science Committee (LSSC) is pleased to provide you with our recommendation as to whether the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (plan) requires amendment.

We have reviewed the Minister’s 10-Year Report on Lake Simcoe (updated July 15, 2021) and have taken into consideration the information provided by various provincial agencies and by studies published in the scientific literature.

We applaud the progress made during the last 10 years in advancing water quality and your ministry’s initiatives demonstrating the importance of the plan in protecting and restoring the lake and watershed.

Despite significant progress on many fronts, some of the targets identified in the plan have not been met and it is difficult to ascertain the best approach to attain them. We recommend that the ministry consider achievable interim targets with tangible, well-coordinated implementation plans that will assist in satisfying the plan’s priorities. Moreover, many of the initial actions identified in the 2009 plan (a little less than 50% of the total policy and other initiatives) required actions to be completed within a 1 to 6-year time period. Some of these actions require updating to advance the priorities identified in the 2009 plan and are re-iterated in the 10-year review.

Taking into consideration these points and the information provided in Annex 1, the LSSC recommends that the existing Lake Simcoe Protection Plan be amended. Annex 1 (attached) is a summary of our observations and a further explanation as to why an amendment is warranted.

The LSSC looks forward to continuing to fulfill our mandate by providing the ministry with practical advice. Should you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact our chair.


Peter Dillon, Chair, Lake Simcoe Science Committee

Lake Simcoe Committee Members:

  • Erin Dunlop
  • Bahram Gharabaghi
  • Paul Harpley
  • Ben Longstaff
  • Lewis Molot
  • Bill Napier
  • Anne Neary
  • Mark Palmer
  • Joelle Young

Additional information regarding Lake Simcoe Protection Plan Amendment observations and issues

The LSSC has reviewed the latest research and monitoring information made available and provide the following examples of ongoing concerns that would benefit from an amendment of the plan.

  • The establishment of invasive species that were introduced prior to the release of the plan (e.g., quagga mussels, starry stonewort, round goby) have led to shifts in the lake’s ecosystem dynamics. As invasive species populations are likely to continue to change, there will likely be corresponding change in the lake ecosystem.
  • While some water quality parameters, such as total phosphorus (TP) concentrations are showing positive trends, other parameters such as chloride continue to increase.
  • TP loads to the lake remain high, variable from year to year, and above the 44 tonnes goal identified to achieve the dissolved oxygen (DO) target.
  • While DO levels have increased and are now closer to the 7 mg/L target, which is critical to the restoration of the cold-water fishery, the recent improvement cannot be attributed to reduced TP loading and should not be considered permanent or stable.
  • Despite improvements in DO levels, the cold-water fish community is not restored or recovered. Lake trout have been showing some decline in abundance and recruitment. This highlights the need for more consideration of stressors other than low DO that impact coldwater fish including invasive species, harvest, and climate change.
  • Climate change continues to be a major stressor on the lake ecosystem and the resulting ecosystem alterations are poorly understood. Continued monitoring and research along with development of adaptive management practices are essential.
  • Natural heritage cover continues to decline below 35%. We are not progressing towards the target of 40% natural cover or a greater proportion of high-quality patches.
  • Small blooms of harmful (i.e., toxic) cyanobacteria have been reported in Lake Simcoe recently, which, if they were to increase, could threaten drinking water supplies and recreational opportunities. Indeed, they are increasing throughout much of the province and are expected to worsen as the climate continues to warm. Expansion of urban development in the watershed also increases the risk of harmful blooms through higher TP loads. While little can be done to alter climate at the watershed level, the additional stress from increased TP loading can be avoided.

Examples of the reasons why a plan amendment is needed

Listed below are examples where plan amendments may lead to improved outcomes.

  • As discussed with ministry staff during the August 12th LSSC meeting, it is not clear how the priorities of the plan will be met. Plan amendments that set achievable interim SMART targets for dissolved oxygen, total phosphorus (“TP”) and protection of high-quality natural heritage fragments are recommended.
  • Refocus science and research: the Plan includes several designated and monitoring policies in support of science and research, but these policies need to be amended to build on information collected during the past 10 years. Furthermore, based on past studies, research questions such as the impacts of invasive species, climate change and unplanned development on lake and foodweb structures and nutrient dynamics need to be refined.
  • Policies in support of more cost-effective solutions to reduce TP loads and other stressors are needed. The committee notes for example the treatment of pump-off water from the Holland Marsh as one of the most cost-effective TP reduction solutions.
  • Increased temperature and change in precipitation patterns due to climate change have been identified as having an increased impact on the health of the lake and watershed. A thorough update of the plan should be undertaken to strengthen policies in support of improved adaptation to climate change and local mitigation opportunities.
  • We note that a natural heritage system restoration strategy has been developed. Policies supporting implementation of the strategy could be considered, recognizing the importance of connecting habitat, stream buffers, creating a greater proportion of large high-quality patches, mitigating climate change and in doing so achieving the plan’s targets, perhaps via incentive programs. Interim targets to be achieved within 10 years should be considered.
  • Invasive species represent a significant threat to both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Policies should be strengthened to detect and eradicate invasive species before and as they become establish.
  • In addition to agricultural runoff sources, an improved understanding of the cumulative impacts of existing and future wastewater treatment plants and urban runoff from continued development on the lake is needed. For example, future urban developments could impair the progress made to date and ability to further protect the lake from low dissolved oxygen, loss of cold-water fish populations and harmful cyanobacteria blooms.
  • Better understanding of the connection between the land, tributaries and lake health is needed, specifically how physical processes of soils, river morphology, human activity, and hydrology inform non-point source phosphorus, chloride and other contaminants of concern to Lake Simcoe.