Cottagers and camp owners filled a meeting room in Kenora, and they gave federal officials a tough time about steps being taken to tackle water quality on Lake of the Woods.

"We know what the issue is. We know what the problem is. We're trying to figure out the best way to address it," said Rich Moy, who is the American Commissioner for the International Joint Commission.

Toxic blue-green algae blooms that are larger and last longer are at the top of the list for scientists in the area. They're also very concerned about the impact of climate change and the spread of invasive species. Researchers noted ice is off local waterways about 28 days longer now than in past years.

Again this year, former prime minister John Turner urged Ottawa to act, rather than focus only on research. In his comments during the meeting, Turner said he could see what Minnesota and the American side were doing, but it seemed to him all Environment Canada was doing was researching the issue, which made him impatient.

From his perspective, Kenora MP Bob Nault acknowledged Minnesota was ahead of the Canadian side.

"We're trying to come up with a move-forward agenda and a strategy, so that when the science is there people will say, 'This is what we want,' " the MP said.

There was some reluctance from a member of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to accept this, saying interim targets helped focus partners and their efforts to help reduce algae blooms in their area. Moy also noted the impact of climate change, saying warmer water will have an impact on phosphorous reduction guidelines, making them a moving target.

At the end of the meeting, cottager Wybo Vanderschuit said he wanted to see progress, but he also saw the need for scientific data, in order to properly direct water conservation efforts.

Presenters at the meeting also made reference to new rule curves, which regulated water levels in the watershed, following the floods of 2014.

For more information:

International Joint Commission - Lake of the Woods watershed

 

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