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Ont. to fund farm projects for Lake Simcoe

The Ontario government will put up $500,000 for on-farm projects to lower phosphorus levels on Lake Simcoe.

The 722-sq.km lake, about 50 km north of Toronto and known for its ice-fishing, has also been known for years to suffer from eutrophication — excessive levels of aquatic plant growth due to high phosphorus levels from urban and rural sources, choking out fish and other aquatic species.

The Lake Simcoe Farm Stewardship Initiative, which will dole out the new funding, is part of the province’s $20 million, four-year pledge in June to protect the lake.

“Farmers are already doing good work to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into Lake Simcoe and its tributaries,” Environment Minister John Gerretsen said in a release Monday. “This funding will help them do even more.”

The initiative is meant to back on-farm projects such as restricting livestock’s access to waterways in the Lake Simcoe watershed, setting up plant buffer zones along the lakeshore and the shorelines of its tributaries, improving on-farm storage of fertilizers, pesticides and fuels, and modifying tillage practices to reduce soil erosion and runoff.

“This funding will help farmers enhance their efforts in a very productive agricultural area of the province,” said Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky in the same release.

Lake Simcoe is southern Ontario’s largest body of water after the Great Lakes and is part of the waterway connecting Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario. According to the province, Lake Simcoe’s 3,300-sq.km watershed includes over 350,000 residents and agricultural production worth nearly $300 million in gross farm receipts (2006 numbers).

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