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Reality Check

RC-13: Does Manitoba Have A Lake Winnipeg Action Plan?

Date Posted: June 11, 2011

The Government of Manitoba tabled Bill 46: The Save Lake Winnipeg Act in the Manitoba Legislature June 2011.

There have been other previous announcements of "strategies or "plans" to protect Lake Winnipeg. A June 8, 2011 search of Manitoba government News Releases, using key words "Lake Winnipeg", "action" and "plan", turns up 71 results dating back to 2000.

In February 2003 the province announced a six-point Lake Winnipeg Action Plan. The plan included establishment of the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board (LWSB) to identify actions to reduce nutrient loading in the lake.

The LWSB released an Interim Report January 2005, with then, Water Stewardship Minister Steve Ashton, stating: "This interim report proves we are on the right track in our endeavour to bring Lake Winnipeg’s nutrient status to its pre-1970s conditions."

Manitoba’s Water Protection Act, proclaimed into law January 1, 2006, sets out a legislative approach to improve protection for Manitoba's water resources and aquatic ecosystems. Amendments in 2008 restrict use of phosphorous in dish and laundry detergents.

The LWSB released, Reducing Nutrient Loading to Lake Winnipeg and its Watershed: Our Collective Responsibility and Commitment to Action, February 2007. The report contained 135 recommendations for restoring the health of Lake Winnipeg. The Manitoba government claimed that "84 per cent of the recommendations" were acted on by February 6, 2007, and "94 per cent" by March 31, 2008.

On March 18, 2010, the LWSB released Manitoba's Progress Towards Implementing Recommendations of the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board. "Of the 135 individual recommendations, progress on nine (6.5 %) was rated "Excellent". Progress on 79 (59 %) was rated "Satisfactory", 38 (28 %) as "Marginal", and nine (6.5 %) as "Unsatisfactory,"

Steps taken towards protecting Lake Winnipeg include: increased regulations on application of fertilizers and manure to lands near water-bodies; increased regulations for municipal removal of nutrients from wastewater; increased research funding; and moratoriums on expansion of large-scale livestock operations, which may soon apply to all of the province.

Still Lake Winnipeg deteriorates. As the 2011"Lake Winnipeg Action Plan" begins, we should re-read LWSB Chair Bill Barlow in the LWSB December 2009 progress report:

"We should have no illusions that our actions will have impact any time soon. The trend lines of nutrient loading still climb upwards. ... Its time to go further than just thinking about action; the time for implementing action is now. We’ve only just begun to reverse what we have done."

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