By Sarah Grishpul

Local environmental groups are concerned that the province is overlooking the impact its major infrastructure projects, like the Bradford Bypass, will have on Lake Simcoe’s health.

“There doesn’t seem to be any consideration with any of those projects about whether this will be a net benefit to the people that surround the lake,” said Margaret Prophet, the Executive Director of The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

The Bradford Bypass is a proposed provincial four-lane highway that would connect the 400 with the 404. The new highway will pass through the northern edge of Bradford and the Holland Marsh.

Ms. Prophet warns that land with a lot of pavement will lead to significant salt runoff in the lake.

“The Conservation Authority for Lake Simcoe basically said if the salt issue doesn’t get under control, it could see Lake Simcoe being toxic within 60 years,” she said.

Another concern is the Town of Innisfil’s plan to build a new GO train station, along with several public and private facilities to service its future Orbit “Smart City” development, which could see the Town’s population grow from 37,000 to 150,000 residents.

Innisfil is seeking a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) from the province, which, according to environmental groups, will allow the Town to bypass existing environmental protections and public consultations.

According to Ms. Prophet, removing farmland and wetlands to facilitate this project will put further pressure on Lake Simcoe.

Local environmental groups have long opposed the proposed Upper York Sewage Solution (UYSS), which would see a state-of-the-art sewage plant built near the Holland River to service future growth in Newmarket, Aurora and East Gwillimbury.

Operating at full capacity, it could discharge 47 million litres of treated sewage into Lake Simcoe per day.

Ms. Prophet said that tourism and businesses around the lake depend on its cleanliness. And many communities, including Georgina Island, home to the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation (CGIFN), rely on the lake for drinking water.

Ms. Prophet believes Lake Simcoe is at a critical point in its recovery and that Ontario’s current growth planning threatens that progress.

She argues that urban sprawl, and the infrastructure projects needed to support it, could overwhelm the area’s sensitive woodlands and wetlands and bring an unhealthy excess of phosphorus into the lake.

“We want to keep our economy strong. We want to reduce the amount of debt. We want to keep Lake Simcoe. There are solutions to all of those things that we can do,” she said, “It just so happens that none of these projects do any of those things,” she said.

Ms. Prophet urges residents in Georgina who care for Lake Simcoe’s well-being to vote for elected officials who will prioritize the lake’s health.

For more information on the environmental threats facing Lake Simcoe, read Lake Simcoe Under Pressure in 2021: Key Stressors and Solutions, written by the Executive Directors of The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.