On October 8, 1998 the Black River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) and International Joint Commission's (IJC's) Great Lakes Water Quality Board co-sponsored a public symposium in Lorain, Ohio (see Appendix I for program). The participants of the event were challenged by the symposium theme of "Protecting What's Been Gained in the Black River." Over 125 decision-makers from governments at all levels, industries, environmental groups, faculty and students from surrounding universities, and concerned citizens (see Appendix II for list of symposium participants) gathered to:

What is the Black River RAP?

The Black River, like many rivers in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, has been impacted by urban, agricultural, and industrial development. In 1985, the IJC's Great Lakes Water Quality Board recognized the river as having impaired beneficial uses and designated it one of 43 "Areas of Concern" in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. An Area of Concern is a geographical area that fails to meet the objectives of the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement where such failure has caused or is likely to cause impairment of beneficial use or impairment of the area's ability to support aquatic life.

In response, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) formed a committee of local public agencies, businesses, and citizen groups, known as the Black River RAP Coordinating Committee, to develop a RAP for the Black River. One of its first acts was to proclaim the entire Black River watershed as an Area of Concern. The RAP's purpose is to define the actions that are necessary to effectively overcome the current water quality problems in the watershed and to restore beneficial uses in the river. The RAP has made considerable progress since 1992, but more needs to be done in order to fully restore beneficial uses.

What is the International Joint Commission?

The IJC assists both the Canadian and U.S. governments in preventing and resolving problems in the lakes and rivers that lie along the border of the two countries. The Great Lakes Water Quality Board is the principal advisor to the International Joint Commission on all matters relating to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Water Quality Board's job is to provide independent advice to the International Joint Commission on ecosystem status and management of the Great Lakes. The Board is made up of senior program managers from state, provincial, and federal regulatory and resource management agencies.

Structure of the Symposium

This symposium was designed to be an action-oriented public meeting to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas pertaining to watershed management. The event began with research presentations on recent improvements in sediment and water quality conditions in the river and what remains to be done in terms of future actions. Breakout sessions were used in the afternoon portion of the program to spur interaction between Water Quality Board members, Black River RAP Coordinating Committee members, other key watershed stakeholders, and concerned citizens on specific issues related to the protection and rehabilitation of the Black River watershed. The purpose of this report is to summarize the symposium presentations and to present the key findings and recommendations from the symposium.

It should also be noted that a student forum was held at Oberlin College on the evening of October 7, 1998 (see Appendix III for a brief description). This forum provided students, professors, and citizens a unique opportunity to ask questions of members of the Water Quality Board. It was very well received by all who participated.