In the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of the United States and Canada agreed "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem." Under the terms of the Agreement, the two federal governments agreed "to make a maximum effort to develop programs, practices and technology necessary for a better understanding of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and to eliminate or reduce to the maximum extent practicable the discharge of pollutants into the Great Lakes System."
The International Joint Commission (IJC) is directed to make a full assessment of the progress toward achieving the objectives of the Agreement every two years. The Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality is the Commission's most recent assessment of progress.
The Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality
In July 1998, The International Joint Commission released its Ninth Biennial Report. The goal of the report is to rejuvenate action on the part of governments and bring solutions and resolution to on-going problems and issues affecting the Great Lakes.
In addition to making 19 recommendations that present a number of specific targets and deadlines to help achieve the Agreement's purpose, the report discusses several important issues that must be recognized.
This information sheet is one of seven that highlight important issues discussed in the report.
AREAS OF CONCERN AND LAKE-WIDE MANAGEMENT PLANS
A geographic approach offers distinct opportunities to address environmental issues. Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) and Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) provide community-based opportunities to identify and solve environmental problems, restore beneficial uses and achieve the Agreement's purpose. They provide a framework to focus human and financial resources; establish benchmarks, goals and timetables; and conduct actions and programs.
RAP and LaMP development has been slow and restoration is far from complete. Recent staff reductions and budget cutbacks in many jurisdictions give the appearance of a reduced commitment.
The Commission has examined the governments' efforts to restore beneficial uses in Areas of Concern (AOCs) and open-lake waters. The Commission found that:
The Commission recommends the following:
(In March 1998, IJC released a Special Report on AOCs, Beacons of Light, that examined implementation efforts in several AOCs and identified successful concepts, techniques and institutional characteristics. It is hoped that the most effective endeavors may serve to guide other AOCs where progress has been more difficult.)
For more than ten years, the Commission has expressed its concern about environmental conditions in Lake St. Clair (Michigan-Ontario) and the St. Joseph River (Indiana-Michigan). Concern relates to levels of persistent toxic substances such as mercury, PCBs and banned pesticides.
The Commission recommends the following:
Scheduled Review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has been renegotiated twice in the past 26 years to include current issues such persistent toxic substances. It is scheduled to be reviewed again this year. The Commission firmly believes that the present Agreement is sound, effective and flexible. Review and renegotiation are not necessary. Rather, the governments need to renew and fulfill their commitments and focus on implementation, enforcement and other actions to achieve the Agreement's purpose.
The International Joint Commission (IJC)
IJC was established through the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty of the United States and Canada. The Treaty recognizes that each country may be affected by the others actions in the lake and river systems along their common border; its purpose is to prevent and resolve disputes concerning these boundary waters.
In 1972, the governments of the United States and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This Agreement was superseded in 1978 by a new Agreement. Its purpose "is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem." IJC assesses the effectiveness of programs and progress pursuant to it.
For More Information
Additional information regarding IJC's Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality can be obtained by contacting an IJC office:
100 Metcalfe St., 18th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1
United States Section
1250 23rd St. N.W., Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20440
Great Lakes Regional Office
In Canada -
100 Ouellette Ave., 8th Floor
Windsor, ON N9A 6T3
In the U.S. -
P.O. Box 32869
Detroit, MI 48232
(313) 226-2170 Ext. 6734