Ontario commits $6 million to support Great Lakes conservation

Hastings-Lennox & Addington MPP Ric Bresee (at podium) introduced Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, David Piccini (left), prior to Piccini’s announcement Monday, Jul. 17, 2023. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Kaiser Lake Farms in Greater Napanee was the beautiful backdrop on Monday, Jul. 17, 2023, as the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks announced it is investing $6 million to support 30 multi-year projects to help protect, conserve, and restore the Great Lakes. 

Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini, who made the announcement, called attention to the picturesque location. “It’s wonderful to be here at Kaiser Lake Farms. It’s truly a stunning backdrop… [Being] from Northumberland-Peterborough South, I’m no stranger to beautiful agriculture backdrops, but I’ve got to say this is one of the best,” he said, indicating the vast expanse of rolling hills, green with crops, alongside the Bay of Quinte.

“Our government is continuing to work with partners to ensure Ontario’s Great Lakes are protected,” the minister said. “We’re very proud to be supporting projects that will improve water quality, reduce plastic and salt pollution, and increase collaboration with farmers, Indigenous organizations, and communities to help improve the Great Lakes.”

The investments, according to Piccini, will help reduce plastic litter, excess nutrients, and road salt entering lakes, rivers, and streams; advance climate resiliency; and make significant progress on restoring environmentally degraded areas of the Great Lakes.

Max Kaiser, owner of Kaiser Lake Farms, was on hand to welcome the assorted dignitaries. He began by introducing his wife and grown children, who work for the farm full time, and his father, Eric Kaiser. “He’s the one who started this farm in this location and built it up to what it is today,” he remarked.

While Kaiser indicated he had not actually been briefed on what Piccini’s announcement was about, he was glad to welcome the minister and other attendees. He told the crowd that the farm crops about 1,100 acres, mostly as feed for chickens: “We are egg producers housing about 31,000 layers and starting them from day old.”

“We’ve been farming here for about 53 years, and in that time we’ve seen water flowing over the land and taking soil with it. Of the practices that we do, one of the cornerstones is protecting that topsoil. We recognize that as a very precious resource,” Kaiser, a former councillor for the Town of Greater Napanee, noted. “Protecting the soil also protects the waterways, so if we keep it here” — indicating the farm — “it’s not there,” he said, with an arm raised toward the Bay of Quinte. “And so we find that most of the best management practices that we employ are actually serving many fronts.”

Anne Anderson, Manager of Community Outreach and Special Projects at Lower Trent Region Conservation Authority, was also present for the announcement and highlighted the Bay of Quinte as a local Area of Concern. Areas of Concern are geographic locations in the Great Lakes identified in the mid-1980s because human activities had severely degraded water quality and ecosystem health in those specific areas.

Anderson noted that phosphorous is one of the main contaminants of the Bay of Quinte. “The Great Lakes funding provided by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks will make it possible for us to support the implementation of best management practices as we work to remove the Bay of Quinte from the Areas of Concern list. This will help reduce soil erosion, resulting in reduced phosphorus entering the Bay of Quinte and local waterways, which improves water quality. The bay provides this area with numerous amenities, everything from quality drinking water to the economic spin-off of a world-class recreational fishery. This funding will help keep the bay a sustainable and valuable resource for future generations.”

Max Kaiser of Kaiser Lake Farms (centre podium) was happy to host the announcement, though he joked that the minister’s office had not briefed him on just what that announcement might be. The laugh was shared by Ric Bresee (far right) and Terry Richardson, Mayor of Napanee (back), who also noted they had not been informed, and by Minister David Piccini (left). Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Kaiser Lake Farms is one of the farms taking action on their land to help improve water quality and help restore the Bay of Quinte Area of Concern by working with the Lower Trent Region Conservation Authority, which received $65,000 to work with area farmers to reduce excess nutrients from agricultural lands.

According to a release from the ministry, other projects being funded are led by community groups, not-for-profits, conservation authorities, universities, and Indigenous organizations and communities across the province; these support commitments in the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health and Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy.

Quinte Conservation Association, which also had representatives on hand, received $162,791 to reduce nuisance algae and manage phosphorus in the Bay of Quinte Area of Concern. The project will also monitor and maintain the area’s water quality and fish and wildlife habitat, while identifying emerging threats such as invasive species and climate change.

The St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences received $402,187 for projects monitoring mercury in fish, sediment, and industrial sites to make sure clean-up actions in the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern are effective, and also assisting the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to study the health of lake sturgeon and eel.

Raisin Region Conservation Authority received $140,000 to develop and implement an agricultural land stewardship program and facilitate an outreach and education program to improve water quality within the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern.

The Governing Council of the University of Toronto received $610,416 to assess Great Lakes water quality (quantifying nutrient loadings, chlorides, microplastics discharges, and tire compounds), evaluate drinking water treatment processes, and assess practices that reduce excess nutrients and nutrient runoff from agricultural lands to the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Program funding is also going to the Chiefs of Ontario, Anishinabek Nation, and Métis Nation of Ontario, as well as 11 First Nations and Métis communities, which will lead projects to support commitments in the latest Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health and Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy.

Ontario’s Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River shoreline is the longest freshwater coastline in the world, measuring 10,000 kilometres, which is greater than the length of the Canada-U.S. border and almost equivalent to travelling one quarter of the way around the world. Ninety-nine per cent of Ontarians live in the Great Lakes Basin, and 95 per cent of Ontario’s agricultural lands are in the Great Lakes Basin.

Ric Bresee, MPP for Hastings-Lennox and Addington, acknowledged the contribution of Indigenous people: “From time immemorial, the Indigenous people have been and continue to be stewards of the land… We thank all generations of people who take care of this land… The enduring and continued presence of Indigenous people provides knowledge, wisdom, and counsel about their history, language, customs, and traditions. Our shared goal is to move forward, creating equal partnerships built on truth, honour, and respect.”

Bresee also said he was grateful to have a reason to come out to Kaiser Lake Farms: “I’ve always been very impressed with Max and his family’s dedication to the farm, to the land, to the environment, and to their community. As I just made the comment with regards to the land acknowledgment, our Indigenous partners have had a long history of protecting the land, and the next best group to do that is our farmers.”

He went on, “Farmers have a vested interest in protecting our lands, protecting our waters and, in doing so, they also have the minor little task of feeding all of us… I’m so pleased to see our government partnering with farmers for environmental protection for all.”

The Bay of Quinte is a long, narrow bay shaped like a “Z” on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. It is just west of the head of the St. Lawrence River that drains the Great Lakes into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Kaiser Lake Farms is one of the farms taking action to help improve water quality and restore the Bay of Quinte Area of Concern by working with the Lower Trent Region Conservation Authority, which received $65,000 to work with area farmers to reduce excess nutrients from agricultural lands. Graphic via Google Maps.

Terry Richardson, Mayor of Napanee, was also on hand for the announcement. He thanked the Kaisers for their efforts and said, “Obviously, with the environmental challenges, none of us can do it on our own. Napanee is a small municipality, and we need the help of our other lower-tier governments… our provincial government, and… our federal government to make this country… a better place to live… So the announcement today is extremely encouraging.”

The government news release states that this announcement is part of making progress on actions included in Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy, such as: restoring 14 historical Areas of Concern around the Great Lakes; restoring and enhancing over 7,200 acres of wetlands across Ontario through 330 projects and $20 million in funding under the Wetlands Conservation Partner Program; and expanding the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail so it now stretches over 3,600 kilometres and connects 155 communities, villages, and First Nations communities.

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