International Joint Commission (IJC)
More than a century of cooperation protecting shared waters

Annex 1 - Areas of Concern

A. Purpose

The purpose of this Annex is to contribute to the achievement of the General and Specific Objectives of this Agreement by restoring beneficial uses that have become impaired due to local conditions at Areas of Concern (AOCs), through the development and implementation of Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for each AOC designated pursuant to this Agreement. 

B. Programs and Other Measures

An AOC is a geographic area designated by the Parties where significant impairment of beneficial uses has occurred as a result of human activities at the local level.

The Parties have designated AOCs and may, after consulting with State and Provincial Governments, Tribal Governments, First Nations, Métis, Municipal Governments, watershed management agencies, other local public agencies, the Public, and the Commission as appropriate, designate additional AOCs based on an evaluation of Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs). A BUI is a reduction in the chemical, physical or biological integrity of the Waters of the Great Lakes sufficient to cause any of the following:

  1. restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption;
  2. tainting of fish and wildlife flavour;
  3. degradation of fish and wildlife populations;
  4. fish tumours or other deformities;
  5. bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems;
  6. degradation of benthos;
  7. restrictions on dredging activities;
  8. eutrophication or undesirable algae;
  9. restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odour problems;
  10. beach closings;
  11. degradation of aesthetics;
  12. added costs to agriculture or industry;
  13. degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations; and
  14. loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

For each AOC, the Parties, in cooperation and consultation with State and Provincial Governments, Tribal Governments, First Nations, Métis, Municipal Governments, watershed management agencies, other local public agencies, and the Public, shall develop and implement a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring beneficial use.

The Parties shall cooperate with State and Provincial Governments to ensure that RAPs are developed, periodically updated, and implemented for each AOC. Each plan shall include:

  1. identification of BUIs and causes;
  2. criteria for the restoration of beneficial uses that take into account local conditions and established in consultation with the local community;
  3. remedial measures to be taken, including identification of entities responsible for implementing these measures;
  4. a summary of the implementation of remedial measures taken and the status of the beneficial use; and
  5. a description of surveillance and monitoring processes to track the effectiveness of remedial measures and confirm restoration of beneficial uses.

A Party shall make RAPs and updated RAPs available to the Commission and the Public.

A Party shall remove a BUI designation when the established criteria have been met.

A Party may elect to identify an AOC as an AOC in Recovery when all remedial actions identified in the RAP have been implemented and monitoring confirms that recovery is progressing in accordance with the RAP. A Party shall monitor and take further action, if required, to restore beneficial uses within an AOC in Recovery.

A Party shall remove the designation of an AOC or AOC in Recovery when environmental monitoring confirms that beneficial uses have been restored in accordance with the criteria established in the RAP.

A Party shall solicit a review and comments from the State and Provincial Governments, Tribal Governments, First Nations, Métis, Municipal Governments, watershed management agencies, other local public agencies, the Public, and the Commission:

  1. prior to the designation of an AOC in Recovery; and
  2. prior to the removal of a designation as an AOC or an AOC in Recovery.

C. Reporting

The Parties shall report on progress toward implementation of this Annex every three years through the Progress Report of the Parties, including:

  1. a listing of current AOCs;
  2. the status of BUIs in each AOC;
  3. the actions completed or initiated in each AOC during the reporting period; and
  4. the remaining actions required in each AOC for the removal of the designation as an AOC.