Report on Public Meeting
November 5, 1996
Cleary International Centre
Windsor, Ontario

Introduction and Background

This was the second public meeting held by the Council according to the IJC's new guidelines for such meetings. A news release was prepared and circulated to the usual media contacts in the Detroit-Windsor area. In addition, several dozen flyers were mailed to nearby universities, non-government organizations and local government agencies. The Council invited the public views on the following questions that are relevant to its priority for the 1995-97 cycle -- Improving the Effectiveness of Great Lakes Research:

The public was invited to attend the entire Council meeting which began at 1:00 p.m. At 5:00 p.m. the Council concluded its business and heard the views of the public who had assembled into the meeting room. Those that wished to address the Council filled out speaker cards.

Public Meeting

Six attendees from various stakeholder groups filled out the speaker cards and asked to address the Council. In addition, some of them provided written comments which are attached. The following is a summary of each speakers remarks as well as any discussion by Council members.

John Kelso, DFO, Sault Ste. Marie

John issued two challenges to the Council and made an observation. His first challenge was to survey Great Lakes research programs again to determine what areas had been successfully protected from research budget cuts. He called these areas "remnant resources" and he suggested that the Council identify and address the emerging issues that could still be dealt with by applying these resources. He felt that this should be presented in a public forum and he suggested the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR).

His second challenge involved getting science to be used in resource management in an effective way. At present, he felt that science was poorly used in decisions about fisheries and other environmental resources and what applications there were suffered from being too ad hoc. He noted that the lag time for good research to be applied was 10 years and that this situation does not make good business sense. One way to remedy this is that scientists need to take a larger policy role. If not, the split between science and management will continue. The key lies in scientists showing managers the value of research and science.

Finally, John observed that any of the options to create efficiencies for research have been available for along time; they just have not been used. The Council need to focus on this as they develop their priority, especially at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC) meeting.

Saulius Simoliunas, Detroit, Michigan

Saul spoke to the Council about another issue of science and policy: rulemaking and judicial review (statement available on request). He discussed the problems of a non-expert court trying to rule on issues relative to an expert agency. He used as an example the Detroit River Remedial Action Plan (RAP). He said that appropriate technology was not being used by the responsible agency, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). He cited the case of analytical methods not being used (that were established procedure) in favor of chemical methods known to be inadequate to evaluate environmental problems. It is difficult for a judge to rule on these questions because the science is so complex. He asked that scientists review documents such as the Detroit River RAP from a technical point of view, not a political one.

Mary Ginnebaugh, IAGLR

Mary is the Secretary of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR). She told the Council that the IAGLR membership has made the problem of research budget cuts the primary focus for the IAGLR Board of Directors for the coming year. She offered to work with the Council to promote the priority for research. An example would be the Council's activities at the IAGLR conference in June of 1997. She suggested that the IAGLR Board and the Council could work together to flesh out the details of the sessions in June.

Jan Ciborowski, Dept. of Biology, University of Windsor

Jan spoke to the Council about the loss of federal and regional funding for Canadian universities (statement available on request). As a biology professor, he is losing avenues by which to pursue funding. He also stressed his concerns about the difficulties of simple data-gathering on the lakes and the lack of commitment to long-term monitoring. He said that changes being observed in places like Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are indicators of the future state of these lakes, but no baseline data is available to make quantitative comparisons.

Another related issue that Jan discussed was the need for collaboration across borders when dealing with international water bodies. Collaboration has been made more difficult because there are fewer international partners that can be applied to for joint efforts. Core funding is needed to support these institutions because there will always be the necessity of collaboration. Even for something as basic as data sharing, some type of long-term fund is needed to provide access to baseline information that must be obtained before any credible study can begin. Yet these are the very programs that are most vulnerable.

Jeff Reutter asked how recruitment of students was being affected. Jan responded that the necessary minds can be found within the region, the interest is certainly here, and there are plenty of problems worth studying. The problem is funding. He cited cuts to six major programs and said that the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is the only program maintaining funding for basic research.

Joe DePinto wanted to know if faculty were being turned away from the Great Lakes. Jan said that he thought this was happening and that applications were being made elsewhere such as South America and Western Canada.

Dale Henry stated that reduced funding for agencies in Canada was a severe problem, especially in Ontario. He wanted to know if the same was true for Canadian universities. Jan said that Canadian universities are facing acute funding problems but they are not being dealt with. He is concerned that irreparable damage will occur before any serious attention is given.

Ken Schmidt, Essex Regional Conservation Authority (ERCA)

Ken stated that as a manager of resources on an ecosystem basis, he relied heavily on research. He made four points:

  1. He sensed that from the conservation authority point of view, RAPs do not focus on watersheds. Further, they do not focus on research, they deal with symptoms, not causes.
  2. Watershed report cards should be used to judge the health of watersheds or subwatersheds. These should be locally based and implemented through conservation authorities.
  3. With decreasing funding, research needs to be focussed on priority areas in an integrated manner. Conservation authorities will benefit directly from this. For example, he pointed out programs in the Essex region, such as non-point pollution strategies and the biodiversity strategy.
  4. He observed that provincial and federal agencies with universities need to be consistent sources of coordination. The Great Lakes Institute at the University of Windsor could be the focus for the Essex region. A coordinated approach to data collection and analysis could be developed. Also integration could be provided as well as international collaboration with nearby U.S. agencies and universities.

John Neate asked about airshed management and management of urban infrastructures. Ken note that ERCA doesn't deal with these areas but other agencies do -- hence the need for integration.

Joe DePinto noted that the watershed approach is a necessity, but that the concept came from the Pollution from Land Use Activities Reference Group (PLUARG). He felt that the watershed approach continues to be applied in the Great Lakes, especially for examination of sources of pollution. However, he stressed the need to now go beyond watersheds to deal with long range atmospheric deposition. Ken agreed that air transport has not been addressed adequately.

Judi Orendorff said she liked the idea of report cards. This is a concept she is trying to develop at the Ministry of Natural Resources' Glenora research station. She stressed the need for coordinated partnership with local agencies and the public.

Rick Coronado, Citizens Environment Alliance, Windsor

Rick stressed to the Council that enough is not known about the impact of atmospheric deposition in the Great Lakes. He cited lakewide problems such as relative contribution to Lake Erie vs. Lake Superior. He also referred to problems in the Detroit River RAP such as sludge incinerators, garbage incinerators and steel mills. Unlike other RAPs, the Detroit River RAP has ignored these problems so far.

The Citizens Environment Alliance has filed a complaint to the Commission on Environmental Cooperation under Article 13, but it focusses on water, not air.

Joe DePinto noted the distinction between air-water and air-land transfer. Questions such as "How much of a tributary's loading is from the atmosphere" do not have complete answers yet.

Nelson Thomas pointed out that this is beginning to be addressed through the Lake Michigan Mass Balance.

Rick noted that Ontario is the third highest on the North American Pollutant Release Inventory for air toxic releases and Michigan is the ninth. Also because unlike with government research, results with negative implications can be buried, private sector funding of research is biased.

John Neate was interested in what type of sources the concern was with. All stationary sources? More power plants than industry in general?

Rick replied that all sources were of concern right now including non-stationary sources and pesticides.

Hy Schwarts, an engineer from Toronto in the audience, asked the Council where it stood on the problem of the bias of science vs. engineering. He felt that engineers were needed and that the Council should have a position.

Concluding Remarks

There were several common threads that ran through the comments from the speakers at the public meeting. These are briefly listed below:

  1. The perceived conflict between science and management and the need to incorporate more science in management decisions. This will lead to better decisions and will presumably make managers advocates for science.
  2. The need for research partnerships. However, these partnerships must often be international in order to deal with the lakes and connecting channels. Barriers to these collaborative efforts must be removed, including access to baseline data which are critical for sound research.
  3. Issues associated with long range transport of air pollutants have not been addressed adequately in research to date. These include air-water and air-land transfer and movement of pollutants from a variety of sources. The concept of an "airshed" may be a useful tool for evaluation.
  4. RAPs depend on science for sound decision making. However, not all RAPs have sources of technical device and some RAPs, such as the Detroit River RAP do not use science as the primary rationale for decisions. This not only hurts the credibility of the plan itself, but ultimately, is detrimental to the viability of the research community whose advice and research is not used.

A general thread that emerged from the Public Meeting is that the Council should continue to champion adequate research, monitoring and assessment in order to achieve the spirit and intent of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Research, monitoring and assessment provide the foundation for both understanding how ecosystems function and how to manage the human component of interaction with the ecosystem.