IJC Draft Report for Public Comment Assesses Governments’ Progress to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes
In its draft Triennial Assessment of Progress (TAP) report under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the International Joint Commission commends Canada and the United States for their exemplary binational commitment and dedicated effort to meet several of the Agreement’s goals. The assessment is based on a progress report provided last October by the two countries, the work of the Commission and advice from the IJC’s Great Lakes advisory boards. The draft report is being released today to obtain public input over the next three months.
"Now that the IJC has released a draft assessment of progress report, the Commission is eager to hear from Great Lakes residents", said US Commissioner Rich Moy.
"It is a key time in the history of the Great Lakes and the Agreement, and we strongly encourage everyone to provide their input and participate in upcoming public meetings," said Canadian Chair Gordon Walker. "Public input is essential to Agreement success."
Comments on the IJC’s draft TAP report as well as on the two countries’ progress report are welcome until April 15, 2017 via email to ParticipateIJC@ottawa.ijc.org and online at ParticipateIJC.org. Public meetings also will be held at the following locations:
March 2, 2017: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
March 21, 2017: Detroit, Michigan
March 22, 2017: Sarnia, Ontario
March 23, 2017: Toledo, Ohio*
March 28, 2017: Buffalo, New York
March 29, 2017: St. Catharines, Ontario
Details for each meeting will be provided on the ParticipateIJC website as well as in the next three issues of the IJC’s monthly Great Lakes newsletter Great Lakes Connection, and posted on the IJC website, Facebook and Twitter.
Some findings in the draft report that the IJC seeks the public’s comment on include:
- Processes and procedures have been institutionalized to meet initial Agreement commitments, such as developing a framework to restore nearshore areas as part of lakewide management plans and to identify science and action priorities.
- Significant new government investment has accelerated work to restore contaminated Areas of Concern and develop tools to measure habitat health and restore wetlands that are crucial to ecosystem health. Coastal wetlands are improving across the basin, which benefits native species and reduces the amount of pollutants and nutrients entering the lakes.
- An initial list of eight chemicals of mutual concern has been created. Several others still need to be added and deadlines to develop binational control strategies to control them have long since passed. Progress to reduce legacy contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins is encouraging, but emerging contaminants such as PBDEs are equally toxic and long-lasting, and thus require immediate attention.
- Water quality in western and central Lake Erie is unacceptable. The commitment to reduce nutrient inputs by 40 percent is laudable but mandatory controls are essential to ensure success.
- Stopping the introduction of aquatic invasive species through ballast water controls and prevention programs has had excellent results. At the same time, existing aquatic invasives and terrestrial invasives such as Phragmites, Asian longhorned beetle and garlic mustard continue to challenge the entire ecosystem.
- The governments have provided an extensive summary of the available science on impacts of climate change in the Great Lakes basin. Based on these findings and the work of the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board, Canada and the United States can demonstrate global leadership by developing a binational approach to Great Lakes climate change adaptation and resilience.
"Canada and the United States committed to addressing a broader range of issues in the 2012 Agreement, adding aquatic invasive species, habitat, groundwater and climate change with previous priorities such as toxic pollutants and nutrients," said Canadian Commissioner Benoit Bouchard. "Over the past four years they’ve made significant progress in several areas."
"What is perhaps most significant about this progress is that it results from the strong commitment and ambitious work by two countries, hundreds of scientists in and out of governments, academia, many nongovernmental organizations and the IJC," said US Chair Lana Pollack. "This is a remarkable binational achievement that so many are working toward common goals."
A draft staff-prepared technical appendix will be posted on the IJC website by January 31, 2017 to provide additional background information for the draft TAP report.
The International Joint Commission (IJC) is an independent binational organization created by Canada and the United States under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. Under the Treaty, the two countries cooperate to prevent and resolve disputes relating to the use and quality of the many lakes and rivers along their shared border. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement assigns the IJC a role in assessing progress, engaging the public and providing scientific and policy advice to help the two countries restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes.
For more information:
* The date of the public meeting in Toledo, Ohio has been changed from March 21, 2017 to March 23, 2017.