A Manitoba-made agreement aimed at protecting lakes and waterways has gained two new signatories.
Last week, Alberta and Ontario signed on to the Lake Friendly Accord, which already includes many mayors and reeves, as well as the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, Manitoba Hydro, the government of Canada and state of Minnesota.
For Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), it’s welcome news.
“We’ve been working with the accord quite closely over the years and were involved in developing the Lake Friendly practices for farms,” said KAP president Dan Mazier, as he returned home following a meeting of the Assiniboine River Basin Initiative. “KAP has been at the table all along, and yes, I think this is good.”
He added that by participating in the process, the organization has been able to make sure farmers’ needs were met and understood, while also ensuring the health of waterways.
Bringing two new provinces into the fold will only help move the accord forward by adding that knowledge and experiences to the mix, he said.
“Ontario has the advantage that it has the Great Lakes, so they’ve been there, done that, and brought it back to life. They have a lot of knowledge, not just about water, but about people and how you bring these things together,” said Mazier, noting that Alberta’s experiences with the oilsands would also add to the discussion.
“But we all have agriculture and I would think we in Manitoba are at the forefront in how we manage nutrients,” he said.
Manitoba’s Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship Tom Nevakshonoff said Ontario has pledged to undertake numerous actions to reduce nutrient loading in the Lake of the Woods area, Lake Simcoe and the Laurentian Great Lakes. Alberta has agreed to a similar pledge to address the issue of nutrient loading in its watershed.
“There are many opportunities for different jurisdictions to work together on this issue because nutrient loading poses one of the most serious threats to water quality across North America,” said Nevakshonoff.
The hope is that by adding these two new provinces to the accord, all partners in the Lake Friendly Stewards Alliance will be better able to share and implement best management practices, the minister added.
“I’m very much encouraged by seeing governments work together,” said Mazier, adding that for “too long” Manitoba has been left alone to deal with the issues affecting Lake Winnipeg, even though several jurisdictions feed into the water system.
The accord has its roots in local government and was the brainchild of nine communities concerned with deteriorating water quality in Lake Winnipeg in 2008. The South Basin Mayors and Reeves launched the Lake Friendly Initiative in 2009, aiming to create a community-to-community approach to improving water quality. It has expanded and evolved since.
“The South Basin Mayors and Reeves recognizes that we need to engage a diverse range of partners to reduce nutrient loading in Lake Winnipeg,” said Rick Gamble, chair of the South Basin Mayors and Reeves and co-chair of the Lake Friendly Stewards Alliance. “We have much to learn from and much to offer our neighbours to the east and our friends to the west as we welcome them as signatories to the accord.”