Canada's RAP Progress Report 2003
- The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Remedial Action Plans (RAPs)
- Severn Sound
- Collingwood Harbour
- Spanish Harbour
- Thunder Bay
- Nipigon Bay
- Jackfish Bay
- Peninsula Harbour
- St. Marys River
- St. Clair River
- Detroit River
- Wheatley Harbour
- Niagara River
- Hamilton Harbour
- Toronto and Region
- Port Hope Harbour
- Bay of Quinte
- St. Lawrence River (Cornwall)
- List of Acronyms
- Figure 1 - Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin
- Table 1 - Status of Beneficial Use Impairments in Canadian Areas of Concern. January, 2003
Severn Sound is located in the most southeastern part of Georgian Bay. It is a complex of bays and their collective watershed which covers an area of 1,000 square kilometers and extends into Central Ontario nearly as far as Lake Simcoe. Between one third and one half of the watershed is used for crop and livestock production and the immediate Severn Sound watershed is drained by six rivers flowing through the agricultural areas. Other features are the patchwork of woodlots including interior forest habitat and a variety of self-sustaining colonies of fish-eating bird species. There are significant human population centres in Midland and Penetanguishene.
The RAP originally identified eight beneficial use impairments (BUIs) in 1988 and these have now been restored to the extent possible at the local level.
In 1988, two primary issues were identified in the AOC:
Eutrophication, as a result of sewage treatment plant (STP) inputs, agricultural activities, and shoreline development, was especially evident in the constricted embayments on the south shore of the Sound. Another concern was the imbalance in the fish community of the Sound with a lack of top predator fish species (particularly walleye). Contributing factors to the degradation include loss of suitable habitat, angler pressure on walleye, three consecutive years of low water levels and the arrival of non-native aquatic species. A further challenge was the loss of riparian habitat in the watershed due to unrestricted livestock access to streams and shoreline marina construction in the embayments. Finally sport fish consumption advisories due to mercury were in effect for walleye, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout and white sucker although these were attributed to sources outside the AOC.
The Severn Sound AOC was delisted in January 2003. A strategy for the restoration of the Severn Sound AOC was formulated by 1993 and the Stage 3 RAP report was completed in 2002. The Stage 3 gave the evidence of restoration of BUIs and the rationale for delisting of this AOC. The report also provides recommendations for monitoring. Between 1989 and 2002, 38 actions recommended in the RAP have been implemented.
Restoration of water conditions to delist the eutrophication impairment have been met as a result of source control of phosphorous. Loads were addressed by reducing total phosphorous from sewage treatment plant (STP) discharges, upgrading private sewage systems, eliminating sewage bypasses and combined sewer overflows, and reducing inputs from agricultural sources.
Actions were completed to improve STP efficiency that reduced the phosphorous loads to meet RAP targets and provided considerable cost savings to the municipalities. Through the Sewage Treatment Optimization Project, the federal and provincial governments provided technical support and training for municipal operators in all eight STPs in the AOC. In addition, Ontario MOE contributed $23M to upgrade four of the eight STPs. The Severn Sound Urban Stormwater Strategy was developed by municipalities and enabling bylaws have been passed to govern new construction, stormwater retrofits and sewer separation projects. Implementation will be ongoing. To reduce algal growth in Severn Sound, 3000 private shoreline sewage systems were inspected and improvements were applied to 600. Despite economic uncertainties in the agricultural sector, the loadings from agricultural sources to four tributaries have been reduced through farm level projects to manage manure runoff, treat direct milkhouse wastes, restrict livestock access to rivers and improve crop practices.
Since 1990, the Government of Canada’s Great Lakes Sustainability Fund has provided $3.4 M towards restoring environmental quality in support of 22 projects in the Severn Sound AOC. The return on this investment in partnerships has realized over $4M in direct partner funding and nearly $2M from in-kind contributions.
Through conservation agreements and wetland rehabilitation projects, 411 hectares of wetlands and their associated uplands have been protected to date. In streams flowing directly into the Sound, 132 projects have been completed creating vegetation buffers and linking habitat nodes. In addition, Natural Heritage Strategies are being adopted by townships and municipalities.
Beginning in 1991, Trumpeter Swans have been reintroduced to Wye Marsh and there is progress in their re-establishment although not all pairs have bred successfully. Until recently the success of the program was limited by the presence of toxic lead shot in the habitat. The lead shot ban in 1993 and an innovative technology to sink the pellets deep into sediment out of reach of the swans will assist in achieving the goal of a sustainable population.
The economic viability of the area has improved through upgraded infrastructure, local job creation, and cost-effective decisions assisted by RAP studies; volunteer participation; and positive media support indicate community acceptance of the RAP principles of maintaining a healthy environment including ensuring economic and environmental sustainability are built into municipal plans.
The federal/provincial RAP team established the RAP in 1987 and the Stage 1 RAP (problem identification) was released in 1988 for public review. Since that time community involvement in Severn Sound has been both extensive and innovative. The highly diverse Public Advisory Committee (PAC) formed in 1989 had a wide range of opinion and expertise. The PAC lobbied persistently and was instrumental in bringing environmental improvements to the region and the inclusion of RAP guidelines into municipal Official Plans. The PAC assisted in public education and awareness, provided feedback for the final stage of the RAP, and has made recommendations for the future of Severn Sound. The lead for public involvement is now with the Severn Sound Environmental Association (see sidebar).
The RAP process in Severn Sound has been a significant success. For each BUI the Stage 3 RAP report contains a status and rationale for delisting impairments. Restoration has been achieved based on implementation actions completed or ongoing and delisting objectives have been met. Two impairments were related to conditions outside of the AOC. Fish population degradation with respect to top predators remains impaired but delisting has proceeded with the proviso that agencies commit to a long term monitoring program that assesses the fish community in relation to those in Georgian Bay and that the results will be used to manage the fishery. Sportfish advisories remain in effect for walleye, small mouth bass and northern pike due to mercury contamination. These levels are similar to other areas of Georgian Bay and through the use of biomonitoring no local source of mercury has been found.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING
With delisiting the Severn Sound Area of Concern in 2003, coordination among all levels of government and the community is needed to plan sustained and scientifically defensible monitoring of Severn Sound. The Stage 3 RAP has recommended: long term monitoring of the trophic status of the Sound; a long term fish population monitoring program; fish habitat assessments; sportfish contaminant monitoring every five years; a benthic sediment assessment study in 2004; developing and using indicators of ecosystem health for monitoring and assessment; beach pollution surveys including monitoring for source discharges; and tracking historical contaminant problems using biological monitoring.
Currently, GLSF is funding a fish community assessment as a commitment under delisting. The expectation is that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans will be involved in future monitoring of the fish community.
OTHER FUTURE ACTIVITIES
To preserve the environmental gains made in the Severn Sound AOC and to protect the considerable investment of effort and funding, there is a need for long term sustainability. Socioeconomic development in the Severn Sound area will continue. Support will be required to engage property owners in projects for rural non-point source pollution control and to continue tributary and wetland rehabilitation.
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