Efforts to help Lake Winnipeg get B.C. partner

November 30, 2010

A GRASSROOTS group working to help Lake Winnipeg is hoping that what worked in the Columbia River watershed will aid our ailing lake.

Bruce Smith of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation said that’s why the local foundation has joined forces with B.C.-based Wildsight, to create the Living Lakes Network Canada.

“They have a good track record with the Columbia River and they are 15 years old and we’re five,” Smith said on Monday after a press conference announcing a two-day summit dealing with Lake Winnipeg.

The two day conference, starting today, is pulling together government officials, business leaders, academics and students.

Heather Leschied, program director of Wildsight, said the idea to create a national group came when they started giving advice to the Lake Winnipeg Foundation. Wildsight has been working for years to   reduce nutrients in the Columbia River watershed. She said one of the   first priorities of the new national group is helping Lake Winnipeg.

In recent years the lake’s shoreline has been covered with thick blooms of blue-green algae and large portions of the lake have been covered with the algae. The algae is caused by nutrients in the lake such as phosphorous and nitrogen.

Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations “Water for Life” Decade and a member of the RBC Blue Water Project’s advisory panel, said a national organization is coming together at the right time for Lake Winnipeg.

“We can learn a great deal from other’s mistakes,” Sandford said.

Leschied said the first thing done to help the Columbia River watershed was to survey its fish habitat, marshland and shorelines.

As well, she said Wildsight built a community-supported system of water stewardship along the river’s headwaters region.

Meanwhile, while the conference itself is closed, the public is invited to a public forum and panel discussion tonight at 7 p.m. at the IMAX Theatre in Portage Place.

The panel, moderated by former Premier Gary Filmon,  includes Hank Venema of the International Institute of Sustainable Development, and retired federal scientist Ray Hesslein.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2010 A7

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