International Joint Commission urges governments to fund plan of study for Lake of the Woods Basin
Comprehensive water quality plan of study recommends 32 projects to address pressing concerns in Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed
28 January, 2015 – Ottawa, ON/Washington, D.C.
The International Joint Commission (IJC) strongly recommends that the governments of Canada and the United States undertake all 32 projects identified in the final Plan of Study it has delivered to them to address the complex water quality challenges facing the Lake of the Woods Basin.
In the summer of 2012, both governments agreed to the development of a water quality plan of study for the Basin, which was recommended in the Commission’s January 2012 "Report to the Governments of the United States and Canada on Bi-national Water Management of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Watershed."
"The Commission commends our governments for recognizing the importance of developing a water quality plan of study for this watershed," stated Canadian Chair, Gordon Walker. "Given the importance of the study for addressing the identified serious water quality concerns, we look forward to the governments’ timely response."
"The Plan was prepared by a binational Study Team at the direction of the IJC and is based on extensive engagement with public agencies, scientific and technical experts, community groups, First Nations, Métis and Tribes and the general public," added U.S. Chair, Lana Pollack. "It also follows two periods of public review and feedback, and builds upon considerable cooperative work and planning that has been undertaken in the basin in recent years."
The Plan of Study identifies five themes of concern, and strongly recommends funding for 32 projects and activities to support a balanced approach to water quality management, in response to concerns by governments, researchers, local residents and indigenous peoples about the Basin’s ecosystem health.
At a total estimated cost of $8.4 million, these projects would support a broadly-based and coordinated binational approach to address specific challenges facing the Basin:
- Monitoring – 1 project to provide long-term, consistent data to track trends in nutrients, contaminants and aquatic invasive species. The Commission identified this project as a particular funding priority
- Nutrient enrichment and harmful algal blooms – 11 projects to improve their management, reduce their severity and frequency, as well as the risks associated with the algal toxins they can release
- Aquatic invasive species – 7 projects to strengthen ongoing prevention measures and pursue control efforts to curb the negative effects of the many invasive species now residing in the Basin
- Surface and groundwater contamination – 7 projects to better understand contamination sources, assess the vulnerability of water resources and establish protective measures
- Capacity building – 6 projects to engage all Basin interests on water quality management and promote greater cooperation among agencies working in it.
The Plan also recommends four projects for immediate action to address significant, pressing risks to the Basin’s ecosystem health; namely:
Project 27: International Platform for Implementation. This project is crucial to the successful implementation of the Plan of Study and future binational management opportunities.
Project 14: Rapid Evaluation and Implementation of Options to Manage Recent Zebra Mussel Infestation in Headwaters Areas in Minnesota. Zebra mussels pose a significant, immediate risk to the ecosystem health of the Basin.
Component of Project 1: Long-term Funding of Wheeler’s Point Gage and Designation as a Gage of Binational Significance. This is a critical component for determining ecosystem health in the Basin.
Components of Projects 5 and 7: Implementation of Proven Best Management Practices (BMPs) and Removal of Solids from Effluent. Where BMPs have been identified as effective at reducing nutrient loads from agricultural lands, they should be implemented immediately. Effluent from sewage and wastewater treatment facilities is an important source of nutrients that can impact lakes and rivers. An immediate action to reduce nutrients would be to enhance the capacity of treatment facilities to reduce solids.
The Commission noted that the Plan should be read in conjunction with the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River State of the Basin Report, 2nd Edition 2014 undertaken as a first step for developing a water quality plan of study, as it provides a comprehensive review of environmental conditions and existing data including key ecosystem concerns, the gaps in knowledge to better understand those concerns, and recommended approaches for addressing these gaps.
The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes of the use of the waters the two countries share. Under the Treaty, the IJC is responsible for regulating shared water uses, investigating trans-boundary issues and recommending solutions to both governments.
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