In 2019 the federal government announced the initiation of a process to create a "Canada Water Agency' intended to provide a formal management structure of coordinated oversight on freshwater issues across the country.
The government's 2021 budget proposed to provide $17.4 million to establish the agency - expected to be started up in 2022. Currently, freshwater management in Canada is a responsibility shared between federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and indigenous governments.
This new agency will be expected to coordinate the efforts of all levels of government to eliminate gaps in management and avoid duplication. These efforts would include responsibility for managing the authorizing of water use and distribution, inland fisheries and habitat, drinking water quality and wastewater systems.
In Huron Shores we have noted that with the overlap of jurisdiction, no government entity is taking ownership of the management of water quality - for instance in big basswood lake. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Huron Shores municipality and North Shore Health all have related jurisdiction but continue to point to each other for ultimate responsibility depending on the issue. When the Canada Water Agency is created, it is the hope of many that this will not be an Ottawa-based agency, but rather a decentralized office in an area where water resources are in abundance and related science, monitoring and research is easily applied.
The city of Sault Ste. Marie has recognized the resources available at and near the municipality will make it a very good candidate to host the agency office. As such, the city has appointed a taskforce to pursue this opportunity and has solicited support for the initiative. Earlier this year Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano and Councilor Corey Ward met with provincial MP Terry Sheehan and MP Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and climate change, to discuss the Sault Ste. Marie proposal. The mayor and council continue to campaign with the federal government at this time.
Having the Canada Water Agency office located close to Big Basswood Lake will enhance our lake association's opportunities to interact with the agency to help drive proactive change in how resources are managed in our lake. Considering this, BBLA Chairman Larry Allcorn has forwarded a letter on behalf of the BBLA membership, supporting the Sault Ste. Marie taskforce goals and requesting information on how we may provide further support.
We note that the city of Regina, Saskachewan is also undertaking the same initiative and with the critical state of agricultural water resources relating to climate change and drought, they also are well placed to host the agency. The SSM taskforce has a significant challenge ahead to land this opportunity. We are hopeful that SSM group will be successful in their mandate and that the new federal agency will help to consolidate freshwater management strategies to ensure that our big basswood lake continues to be one of the clearest and healthy water bodies in the country into the future.
The BBLA board will continue to monitor this file and provide support to SSM, and we will update the membership as we receive further information.