The provincial government announced it will invest $5 million in a Watershed Conservation initiative in Muskoka.

Muskoka is widely known for its scenic lakes and rivers, but the chair of the Muskoka Watershed council says more must be done to protect the region’s most precious resource.

“We need to find ways to make our economy sustainable by managing those resources properly,” said Kevin Trimble, “and that makes it really important to look at the entire watershed and how it’s functioning.”

The Ontario government says the $5 million plan will look at how to address challenges like flooding, development pressures, algae blooms and erosion.

Trimble says the province’s involvement will help with the work that needs to be done.

The plan is short on specifics at this point, so the government will form an advisory group to engage community members, and local municipality leaders to help determine what projects will be a top priority.

"The Muskoka Watershed is one of the highlights of our province and a vibrant hub of Ontario's tourism industry," said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. "This is why we are committed to working with the local community to protect it. Together, we will ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and the economic benefits this watershed brings to the region."

The initiative will also set a minimum waterflow at the site of the Bala Falls hydro project, where work has already started. Project opponents say the plan falls short of the promise Premier Doug Ford made the scrap the power dam during his campaign.

The government will also match tax-deductible donations from people and businesses to the initiative, and any funding from other levels of government, up to a total of an additional $5 million.