New advisory group appointed to find ways to protect Muskoka Watershed
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2019 6:15PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 7, 2019 6:53PM EDT
One year after the Ford government made a five-million-dollar pledge to protect Muskoka's watershed, the province appointed nine people to the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group.
The team is made up of a selection of people with varied expertise in several fields. They are tasked with identifying issues and making recommendations on the heels of historic flooding.
"Protecting the Muskoka watershed and working in the community will help us develop a more comprehensive approach to watershed management," said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
The advisory group will meet with the community and local governments to determine what projects will be the top priority.
"Water levels and flows are an element of our discussions, but there are other critical elements that are part of the watershed puzzle. For example, soil, the forest and the complex range of natural species," explained the advisory group chair, Mardi Witzel.
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith is pleased the province is taking the watershed seriously. "There's a lot to look at from watershed management to environmental management and to ensure this environmental gen stays for generations," said Smith.
The mayors of Muskoka Lakes and Huntsville agree updating the current water management plan is long overdue.
"It's a plan that came into effect in 2006 using data from the 80s and 90s," said Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding. "It certainly didn't implement any kind of climate change."
"This is a watershed we managed artificially, and it's a system with infrastructure that was built 50, 60, 70 years ago. We're seeing more extreme weather events, and it's not designed to manage that," said Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison.
The advisory group plans to hold its first meeting by the end of the summer. Right now, there is no timeline for how long the process will take and when recommendations will be presented to the province.