The Agreement recognizes "that restoration and enhancement of the boundary waters cannot be achieved independently of other parts of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem with which these waters interact" (Preamble). In addition to toxic and persistent toxic substances, a number of other issues were brought to the Commission's attention. Many relate to the physical landscape of the basin, biological contamination, nutrients and water quantity.

  • Concerns about the physical landscape include land use, shoreline alteration, watershed development and urban sprawl. These adversely impact wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat, including loss of spawning and nursery areas for Great Lakes fish and disruption and possibly permanent alteration of the food web and biodiversity.
  • Biological contamination includes the long-standing sea lamprey problem, zebra mussels, purple loosestrife and a plethora of other plants and animals that impact ecosystem health and integrity. Aquaculture and fish stocking programs may lead to biological contamination.
  • Over-enrichment primarily concerns excess phosphorus.
  • Water quantity includes consumptive uses, diversions and groundwater.

Other specific issues brought to the Commission's attention include mining, oil and gas drilling and underwater timber salvage. Concern also was expressed about the need to maintain biodiversity and health of ecological communities, which can be disrupted by a wide range of activities, including genetic engineering. The Commission is exploring where and how it can best contribute to the resolution of these issues and concerns.

The Commission continues to support programs to deal with exotic species and appropriate land-use practices. The Commission recognizes the connection among these stressors and between them and water quality. It is also conscious that, because of the complex nature of the ecosystem, decisions taken to resolve the persistent toxic substances problem will affect other issues as well.