Federal funding announced to restore and protect the Lake Winnipeg basin

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The Government of Canada announced today that it is contributing $3.8 million in funding over four years to protect and restore the health of the Lake Winnipeg basin.

Lake Winnipeg, called Canada’s other great lake, is the country’s sixth-largest lake and the tenth-largest freshwater lake in the world. It is important to Manitoba’s economy, generates millions of dollars of revenue through hydroelectricity, recreation and commercial freshwater fishing, according to the government of Canada.

Lake Winnipeg Challenges

Deterioration of Lake Winnipeg has been documented for some time. According to the government of Manitoba, nutrient loading (especially phosphorus and nitrogen) to the lake has increased in the past several decades, with a doubling of phytoplankton biomass in the 1990s. As well, cynaobacteria (blue-green algae), which can be toxic, began to dominate phytoplankton communities.

The lake is also know to have six invasive species: the common carp, rainbow smelt, white bass, the cladoceran Eusbomina coregoni, Asian tapeworm and spiny water flea.

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In 2013 the Global Nature Fund gave Lake Winnipeg the title of Threatened Lake of 2013. It said: “That this huge Canadian lake is faced with problems similar to those of lakes in more densely populated countries is hard to believe.”

Lake Winnipeg Basin Program

The $3.8 million in funding that was announced by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, will support 23 new projects under the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the program takes action to reduce excessive nutrients—such as phosphorus—from entering the lake. Excess phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg is the main cause of toxic and nuisance algae that negatively impacts water quality. The Program will also enhance collaboration throughout the Basin and support the engagement of Indigenous Peoples on freshwater issues.

The Program started in 2007 to fill in gaps in the understanding of the watershed’s ecology and nutrient cycling, as well as sources of pathways for nutrients, notably phosphorus and nitrogen.

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