Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent celebrated World Water Day at the Sherbourne Common in Toronto this morning, highlighting 46 projects that have received funding under Canada’s Great Lakes Action Plan.

“The Great Lakes are fundamental to the well-being of millions of Canadians and Americans who live and work along their shores. Protecting water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes is vital to ensuring that Canadians can continue to depend on this rich ecosystem for their drinking water, for recreation and for jobs,” Kent said.

“Realizing this vision means addressing the challenges in the Great Lakes. There are a number of stresses to the ecosystem: population growth and agricultural intensification, the introduction of aquatic invasive species and changing climate conditions, municipal wastewater effluents, and industrial discharges. These challenges are complex and interconnected.”

Kent stated that since 1989, the Fund has supported more than 800 projects and has resulted in three Areas of Concern at Collingwood, Severn Sound and Wheatley, Ontario being fully restored and removed from the list of Areas of Concern.

“In this last fiscal year alone, we’ve invested more than $3.3 million for 46 projects to help restore water quality in the remaining 14 Areas of Concern on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.”

He said it gives him particular pleasure to talk about the work being done in the Toronto and Region Area of Concern, and explains that funding has been provided for work in 12 of the remaining 14 Areas of Concern. He spoke specifically about Aquatic Habitat Toronto using acoustic tags in fish species of the Toronto Harbour to track the seasonal movements of bass, pike, walleye, and carp in order to understand their habitat use. Knowing how the species use the habitat helps to direct aquatic habitat restoration efforts, like the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA’s) projects creating 1.5 hectares of wetland on the Toronto Islands and restoring wetlands in the Humber Bay Marsh.

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“The financial support of the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund has allowed the TRCA and its Aquatic Habitat Toronto partners to pursue scientific research that help us to ground truth, and direct our habitat restoration efforts. This research ensures that restoration is carried out in a scientifically defensible manner. Results from the acoustic tagging project confirm that restoration projects in Toronto are meeting The Living City objectives, and have applicability to habitat restoration throughout the Great Lakes,” said Brian Denney, CAO for the TRCA.

Minister Kent concluded by reinforcing the government’s commitment to the Great Lakes and reassured the group of press that “this is a disbursement of new funds … the projects announced today are new projects.”

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