By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller
I know everyone has been bombarded with information about the pandemic, the public health measure and the vaccine so instead of devoting my whole column to that topic I will give a brief update and then move on to another important issue in Muskoka – the protection of the Muskoka Watershed.
The additional health measures and shutdown are frustrating, I understand that. We all hoped things would be looking better by now but we need to stay vigilant for a little longer. I can only ask, please follow the health measures and, please get a vaccine as soon as you are offered one. Ontario has now administered more than 4 million vaccines.
Locally, on top of the mass vaccine clinics run by the health unit in Huntsville and Bracebridge, there are now two Huntsville pharmacies offering the vaccine as well as pharmacies in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Parry Sound. To register to receive a vaccine at the mass vaccination clinics (currently for people 60 and older) visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/ or call 1-888-999-6488. To find a pharmacy offering vaccines visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations and follow the instructions for the pharmacy you wish to use. Residents 40 and older are now eligible to register for a vaccine at pharmacies. Like the provincial sign-up please register online if possible. The pharmacies will let you know when they have a vaccine for you. I know the wait is frustrating, I am on a waiting list to receive my vaccine at a pharmacy as well. That being said, I encourage anyone who is eligible to sign up and get on the waiting list but please don’t call your pharmacy daily for an update.
Ontario funding projects to protect the Muskoka Watershed
This week I had the pleasure of joining the Honourable Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, and the Honourable John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, as they announced funding 16 projects based on the recommendations of the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group.
I was pleased to see projects relating to an integrated watershed management strategy, flood mitigation and watershed health all receive funding.
Certainly I know that flooding is an ongoing concern for anyone with property near the water everywhere in Muskoka. Around Huntsville the most frequent flooding happens on the river. Happily this spring we didn’t have flooding – I haven’t heard stories of anyone paddling around Beer Lake or across the parking lot at Brendale Square this year. But we know that with more frequent extreme weather, we have to plan for more flooding events in the future.
The flood mitigation projects include things like expanded floodplain mapping and exploring conventional and natural flood mitigation approaches for specific flood prone areas. For example, I would expect this project would look specifically at what can be done to reduce the frequency of flooding around the Huntsville Town Dock, Rivermill Park and Brendale Square. As we all know this is a huge problem for the town and for the businesses in the area.
The work on an integrated watershed management approach will look at long term solutions to managing the water levels across the Muskoka Watershed as a whole.
There are also projects that would build on the work of the Muskoka Watershed Council to study the water quality, watershed health and erosion as well as an inventory of all public access points throughout the Muskoka Watershed to develop local policy options that support environmental, social and economic priorities. This last one is important for the majority of residents who don’t live on the water but need opportunities to take advantage of living in an area with beautiful lakes and rivers. Just because you don’t live on the waterfront doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy everything Muskoka has to offer.
Ontario is investing a total of $4.25 million in these projects to protect the Muskoka Watershed now and for generations to come. The District of Muskoka will be heading up 15 of the 16 projects. The Town of Bracebridge will also lead one project to address the siltation and sediment where the Muskoka River meets Lake Muskoka creating a navigational hazard in the mouth of the river. All the projects came from the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group’s report last year. Additional projects are still in the works.
Many of these projects will involve a great deal of community involvement through consultations and in more formal roles on a community round table and task force. I hope that residents who are interested in protecting our beautiful lakes, rivers and wetlands will get involved in these projects.
I want to again thank the members of the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group for all their work in developing these recommendations.
Photo of MPP Norm Miller is courtesy of his office. Queen’s Park photo “June 2012 Ontario Legislature Toronto” by Priscilla Jordão, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.
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