Contribute your Thoughts, Concerns and Ideas Online and at March Great Lakes Public Meetings

It’s Your Time to Speak Up for the Great Lakes

By Sally Cole-Misch, IJC

In previous editions of this newsletter, we’ve told you about reports released by Canada, the United States and the IJC on progress to restore the vitality of the Great Lakes. Both reports are required every three years by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which provides goals to guide the two countries’ work. Just as important are your views on how the Great Lakes are faring. We’re offering a variety of ways and places to contribute your thoughts over the next few months, which will be included in the IJC’s final report. Now’s your chance to influence what actions will be taken for the Great Lakes in the next three-year or triennial cycle. Read on for ways to contribute your voice to the conversation.

six cities health great lakes tap meetings
Join us in one of six cities to provide your insights on the health of the Great Lakes: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Detroit, Michigan; the Lake Erie Center in Oregon, Ohio (top row); Sarnia, Ontario; Buffalo, New York; and St. Catharines, Ontario. Credits: City of Sault Ste. Marie, IJC, University of Toledo, City of Sarnia, Jake Haggmark, City of St. Catharines.

Read and Comment

Your first option is to review the reports – the Progress Report of the Parties and the IJC’s draft Triennial Assessment of Progress (TAP) report – and provide written comments. The TAP report includes several questions for your consideration that were included to help in writing the final report and its recommendations. We welcome perceptions of the lakes from your unique vantage point, locally and as a Great Lakes citizen. All written comments can be submitted by April 15 at Participate IJC, by email to ParticipateIJC@ottawa.ijc.org, or through the mail to IJC, 234 Laurier Ave. West, 22nd Floor, Ottawa, ON K1P 6K6.

Attend an IJC Great Lakes Public Meeting

The IJC’s TAP report is in draft form to gather public input before its findings are finalized into recommendations. We met with citizens in Toronto and Milwaukee last fall after the governments released their progress report, and their comments are included in this draft TAP report. Now we’re coming to six Great Lakes communities throughout the month of March to get your reaction to both reports and your unique perceptions of the Great Lakes. Each meeting will focus initially on the Agreement topics that are most relevant to that location, but any comments about the Great Lakes are welcome at each meeting. Local experts addressing key issues will provide brief presentations, and then the floor and conversations will be yours.

Here’s the lineup:

Thursday, March 2: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Michigan Public Meeting
Delta Hotels by Marriott, 208 St. Mary’s River Drive, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
6 p.m. public meeting
Key topics: St. Mary’s River Area of Concern, Lake Superior lakewide management, habitat

Tuesday, March 21: Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, Roundtable and Public Meeting
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Adventure Center, 1801 Atwater, Detroit, Michigan
1-4 p.m. roundtable with local experts on key issues (the public is welcome to attend and listen to the conversation), 6 p.m. public meeting
Key topics: Areas of Concern, water quality and human health, green infrastructure, environmental justice, recreational use

Wednesday, March 22: Sarnia, Ontario, and Port Huron, Michigan, Public Roundtable
Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre, 180 North College Ave., Sarnia, Ontario
1:30-4:30 p.m. public roundtable
Key topics: St. Clair River Area of Concern, chemicals of mutual concern and human health, harmful algal blooms and Great Lakes nutrient reductions

Thursday, March 23: Toledo, Ohio, Public Meeting
University of Toledo Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bay Shore Road, Oregon, Ohio
6 p.m. public meeting
Key topics: Harmful algal blooms, Lake Erie nutrient reduction, agriculture, fisheries

Tuesday, March 28: Buffalo, New York, Roundtable and Public Meeting
WNED-WBFO Studio, 140 Lower Terrace, Buffalo, New York
1:30-4:30 p.m. roundtable with local experts on key issues (the public is welcome to attend and listen to the conversation), 6 p.m. public meeting
Key topics: Areas of Concern, chemicals of mutual concern, recreational use, and wetlands and habitat

Wednesday, March 29:  St. Catharines, Ontario, and Niagara Falls Public Roundtable
Alumni Hall, St. Catharines Rowing Club, Henley Island, end of Henley Island Drive, St. Catharines, Ontario
1:30-4:30 p.m. public roundtable
Key topics: Sustainable agriculture, harmful algal blooms, Great Lakes nutrient reduction, chemicals of mutual concern and human health, and Areas of Concern.

Register to attend one or more of these sessions today to receive updated information, and look for further details in the March issue of Great Lakes Connection as well as on the IJC’s website and its social media outlets.

Be Part of the Conversation through Social Media

 You may already follow the IJC on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If not, we invite you to join the conversation to receive meeting updates and reports as well as links to videos and comments from each session on Participate IJC. We welcome your input, retweets, shares and likes and will repost comments about progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes. All written comments should be provided on ParticipateIJC to ensure that they are part of the official record in the final TAP report.

Join the conversation and provide us with your perspectives of how the Great Lakes are faring. Now’s the time to speak out for the lakes we love.

Sign In and Sound Off: Great Lakes Questions Need Answers

megaphone participateijc
Credit: Gary Knight

By IJC staff

Water doesn’t speak, but you can.

April 15 is the deadline for public comments on our Triennial Assessment of Progress Report and the Progress Report of the Parties.

That’s a mouthful, we know. The TAP report, for short, looks at the job the Canadian and US governments have done to meet requirements of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The TAP includes a review of the Progress Report of the Parties, or PROP. As the Water Quality Agreement’s title suggests, this is a subject of upmost importance for anyone who lives in the Great Lakes basin, which supplies drinking water, recreational opportunities like swimming, fishing and boating, and countless other benefits.

How are the lakes doing? You tell us. The governments have released their status report, and we’ve assessed it in 84 exciting pages.

You don’t have to read the reports cover-to-cover. And you don’t need to travel to upcoming public meetings to add your voice. Of course, those who can attend March meetings in Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and New York and encouraged to come out. Those who can’t are encouraged to sign in and sound off on both reports. Go to ParticipateIJC.org.

We’ve summarized the TAP report’s key findings in an infographic. We’ve also come up with questions to help spur engagement. There’s an executive summary on pages 9-11.

draft tap infographic

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough engagement since the reports were released for public comment. You can help change that. Sign in, sound off, and speak out for water. Have the governments’ done something right? Tell us. Have they missed something? Tell us. If there a particular issue that needs more focus? Tell us. The people who live in the basin know it best.

The questions below may be a little bureaucratic (This is for the draft of an official TAP report that will be sent to two federal governments, after all). Feel free to interpret the questions widely; general comments also are welcome.

Here’s the schedule of the questions we’ll be posting in coming weeks at ParticipateIJC.org on the TAP report. Separately, you also can comment on the PROP report.

Invasive Species: The week of Feb. 13

  • Do you agree with this finding of successes and gaps in the Parties’ progress toward the achievement of this objective?
  • How could the Parties better harmonize permitting, remove administrative barriers and adopt an integrated approach to AIS management?
  • Are there other ways the parties could improve their binational approach to invasive species?

Human Health: The week of Feb. 20

  • Do you agree with this finding regarding lack of demonstrated progress toward achievement of the human health objectives and the need for greater binational focus?
  • What advice should the IJC give the Parties on how to increase the binational focus on human health?
  • What issues should the Parties address as a priority under an increased binational focus on human health?

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: The week of Feb. 27

  • Has the 2012 GLWQA affected you?
  • What was the most notable achievement of governments in the first three years of Agreement implementation?
  • What advice should the IJC give the Parties about how binational cooperation on Great Lakes issues can be maintained and expanded?

Nutrients: The week of March 6

  • Do you agree with this finding regarding the progress on nutrients?
  • What are other steps could the Parties take to remedy degraded water quality in western and central Lake Erie?
  • Are there other actions the Parties should take to address nutrients in the Great Lakes?

Pollutants: The week of March 13

  • Do you agree with this finding regarding the progress on CMCs?
  • How can the Parties improve their processes to designate CMCs and develop binational strategies for their control and/or elimination or generally increase their progress toward achieving the pollutants objective?

Process, Deadlines: The week of March 20

  • How do you benefit or could you benefit from these processes and procedures?
  • What principles and approaches from the GLWQA could be better institutionalized in the next work cycle?
  • What new deadlines should be set for work in the next triennial cycle(s)?

Areas of Concern: The week of March 27

  • Do you agree with this finding on progress in restoring AOCs?
  • What should the Parties learn from progress in AOC restoration?
  • How can this progress on AOCs be maintained or improved?

Reporting: The week of April 3

  • Do you agree with this finding on Great Lakes indicators?
  • What additional improvements could be made in Great Lakes reporting?

It’s Your Turn: Tell Us What You Think About IJC’s TAP Report and Progress to Restore the Great Lakes

By Sally Cole-Misch, IJC

The Canadian and US governments presented their progress report last fall on efforts to restore the Great Lakes by meeting the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The IJC has now released its initial assessment of that progress in a draft Triennial Assessment of Progress report. The TAP report was released in draft form so we can hear from you before it becomes a final report to both countries.

shores lake superior tap
The shores of Lake Superior. Credit: Dean Pennala – Fotolia

“Now that the IJC has released its draft assessment of progress report, we’re eager to hear from Great Lakes residents,” US Commissioner Rich Moy said at the time of the report’s release.

There are several ways you can contribute to the IJC’s assessment of progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes. You can tell us what you think of the draft report’s findings and respond to its questions — and anything else that’s on your mind about the lakes — via email to ParticipateIJC@ottawa.ijc.org and online at ParticipateIJC through April 15, 2017.

You’re also invited to attend a public outreach meeting that the IJC will host in six communities in March. In addition to hearing your thoughts and comments, local experts will present the latest information on specific issues in each location – including the successes and challenges still to be faced – to ensure a broad conversation about the lakes.

“We strongly encourage everyone to provide their input or participate in an upcoming public meeting,” said IJC Canadian Chair Gordon Walker. “Public input is essential to Agreement success.”

Public meeting dates and locations include:

  • Thursday, March 2: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
  • Tuesday, March 21: Detroit, Michigan
  • Wednesday, March 22: Sarnia, Ontario
  • Thursday, March 23: Toledo, Ohio
  • Tuesday, March 28: Buffalo, New York
  • Wednesday, March 29: St. Catharines, Ontario.

Details for each meeting will be provided in early February at Participate IJC, on the IJC website, in next month’s issue of Great Lakes Connection, and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Be part of the conversation by telling us how you value the Great Lakes ecologically, culturally, economically and personally, and about the commitment you and your community share to restore and protect these precious waters.

What do you think about Canada and the United States’ progress to accomplish the Agreement’s goals and objectives, and about the IJC’s draft assessment of that progress? Your voice is essential to ensure that both countries continue to make progress. The floor is yours.

Sally Cole-Misch is the public affairs officer at the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, Ontario.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Jan. 30, 2017, to reflect a date change to the Toledo meeting.