The Need for a Restoration Strategy
The Commission acknowledges that the Parties manage contaminated sediment within the domestic programs for each country, and not on a binational basis as recommended in the Commission's 2000 Tenth Biennial Report.17 This management choice need not affect progress under the Agreement. The effectiveness of binational coordination relies upon the close level of cooperation that has been the hallmark of the relationship between the two countries since signing the Boundary Waters Treaty. However, a shared strategy and commitment to cleaning up this ecosystem becomes even more important when it depends on unilateral actions. For example, cleanup on one side of the international boundary may be less effective if the other side is not engaged in similar cleanup efforts and employing mutually acceptable time frames and standards.
The resources required to sustain cleanup activities and binational commitments are seldom sufficient when they are provided on an ad hoc basis, particularly when funding is based on established programs that serve other goals as well as contribute to progress under the Agreement. Because many national and regional priorities compete for scarce resources, a clearly stated government commitment to remediate contaminated sediment is critical if the agencies are to obtain sufficient funds to restore the Great Lakes.
The Commission is convinced that the Great Lakes region cannot hope to successfully receive support as a national priority without a publicly accepted, comprehensive plan for restoring the Great Lakes through remedial efforts, particularly sediment cleanup. The recently released U.S. Great Lakes Strategy and the newly signed Canada-Ontario Agreement could form the basis for the development of more effective strategies, and in particular, for building public and political support to sustain long-term restoration.18
The U.S. Great Lakes Strategy was developed cooperatively by the U.S. Policy Committee, a forum of senior-level representatives from Federal, State, and Tribal natural resource management agencies and environmental protection agencies. It is the culmination of a three-year effort, which included an extensive public comment process. The Strategy articulates a shared, long-range vision for the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Policy Committee will use the Strategy to guide protection and restoration activities over the next several years. The Commission commends the United States and the jurisdictions for arriving at a consensus on the long-range vision and specific goals, and will monitor the implementation of the Strategy. In particular, the Commission looks to the United States and the U.S. jurisdictions to find the resources to ensure Remedial Action Plan implementation is closely coordinated and directed to the restoration of beneficial uses.
With respect to sediment, the U.S. Great Lakes Strategy 2002 includes the following key objectives.
Accelerate the pace of contaminated sediment remediation, working to overcome barriers to progress identified at each site. Bring together complementary federal and state authorities, and/or government and private resources to address the contaminated sediment problem and its source, so that:
The Commission also commends Canada and Ontario for achieving consensus on a vision for the Great Lakes under the new Canada Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA). The vision is to achieve a "healthy, prosperous and sustainable Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem for present and future generations." COA specifies results and commitments to achieve those results over the next five years. The Commission will monitor the implementation of the agreement and looks forward to reviewing the biennial reports on progress. The Commission particularly looks to Canada and Ontario to find the resources to ensure that Remedial Action Plan implementation is closely coordinated and directed to the restoration of beneficial uses.
With respect to sediment, the Commission notes with interest that COA states that "Canada and Ontario will address the continuing sources of pollution to Areas of Concern by achieving ... management strategies for contaminated sediment."
The Commission is encouraged by the willingness of the Parties and jurisdictions of each country to reach a consensus on their respective program areas to restore and maintain the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The Commission gives credit to the state of Michigan for the new investment of $25 million under the Clean Michigan Initiative for sediment remediation, and is encouraged by the pending U.S. Congress allocation of $50 million for sediment remediation. The Commission credits Ontario for its announcement of $50 million over five years as a contribution under the Canada Ontario Agreement and Canada for $30 million under the Sustainability Fund. The Commission looks forward to reports of progress on sediment remediation and the cleanup of Areas of Concern, both of which are priorities under U.S. Great Lakes Strategy and the Canada Ontario Agreement.
For both countries, and for our shared resource overall, it will be essential to set priorities for remediation and develop a strategic plan. Criteria need to be selected and applied to each Area of Concern to identify relative needs. Some relevant criteria related to sediment management include:
Additional criteria could be developed to create a framework for setting priorities. This framework could also improve the likelihood that all problem areas are eventually addressed, or further advanced with additional funding or support.
In the United States, funds have been authorized at the federal level for a variety of purposes that could be helpful to the cleanup of the Great Lakes. For example, funding for the control of sea lamprey has focused on the Great Lakes, but most programs, such as the Superfund program, have addressed issues on a national scale, with no directed funding for the Great Lakes.
In Canada, specific funding programs can be approved by cabinet and dedicated toward well defined priorities, such as the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund. The Commission is convinced that a more strategic, national approach should be initiated at the federal level in both the United States and Canada to authorize sufficient funds to permit an aggressive effort to clean up and restore the Areas of Concern in a reasonable time. This approach has been used in other specific regions of the United States. Most recently, Congress authorized $7.8 billion to carry out restoration of the Everglades in the state of Florida.
Without question, the restoration of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem is a matter of national and strategic importance for both countries. But restoration of water quality cannot occur as long as very large quantities of contaminated sediment present an ongoing source of exposure to humans in the Great Lakes. The Commission is convinced that the importance of restoring and maintaining the health of this vital resource is fundamental to our collective security in the 21st century and beyond. The Commission strongly supports a national commitment through specific legislation or specific funding programs to address remediation of Areas of Concern and to achieve the overall purpose of restoration as set out in the Agreement.
Annex 12 of the Agreement specifies the commitment to virtually eliminate the input of persistent toxic substances in order to protect human health and to ensure continued productivity of living aquatic resources and human use thereof. The goal of virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances cannot be achieved without control of all inputs, including those from contaminated sediment.