International Joint Commission
Spring, 1999
Volume 24, Issue 1

IJC Scrutinizes Water Uses,
Diversions and Removals

Concerned that existing policies may not give adequate protection, the United States and Canadian federal governments asked the International Joint Commission in February to examine the use, diversion and removal of waters along the common border. The request came in the wake of a proposal to remove water from Lake Superior.

The IJC launched its investigation in March by holding public hearings in eight cities on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The hearings yielded a rich record of issues and views regarding the use of these treasured water resources. The IJC also intends to hold consultations in the eastern and western regions of the continent to obtain advice on the shared waters outside the Great Lakes basin.

At the Windsor, Ontario hearing.

Over the years, the IJC has pointed out that water must be managed in a rational, consistent and anticipatory way to prevent transboundary disputes. The governments have asked the IJC to build on its experience, including its 1985 study of Great Lakes diversions and consumptive uses, and to submit interim recommendations for the protection of Great Lakes waters by August 1999. A final report on the Great Lakes, along with a plan for assessing consumption, diversions and removal of other waters along the Canada-U.S. boundary, is due in February 2000.

Specifically, the IJC will make policy recommendations after examining issues that may affect levels and flows of water within the basins and aquifers shared by the two countries. Major issues include:

  • existing and potential consumptive uses of water;
  • existing and potential diversions of water in and out of the transboundary basins, including withdrawals of water for export;
  • the cumulative effects of existing and potential diversions and removals of water, including removals in bulk for export; and
  • the current laws and policies as may affect the sustainability of the water resources in boundary and transboundary basins.

The IJC has appointed a binational study team, held expert workshops and is working diligently to provide sound advice within the deadlines set by the governments.

Additional information can be found on the Water Uses Reference page. All interested citizens and organizations are invited to send comment during the course of the study to the website , email , fax or mailing addresses.

Send Us Your Comments
on Water Uses Study!

IJC Advances Watershed Approach

As we cross into the new millennium, the International Joint Commission, like other institutions worldwide, is taking stock of its role and the challenges and opportunities we will face in the years ahead. In October 1997, the IJC responded to the Canadian and U.S. governments’ interest in this matter with a report on The IJC and the 21st Century . The report considered some of the ways the IJC might help governments address environmental challenges along the international boundary. High on the list was the need to identify, prevent and resolve potential disputes that are likely to emerge from increased stresses on water and other resources. Building on some of the latest and most farsighted thinking on this issue, the IJC proposed the eventual establishment of international watershed boards along the entire boundary. These boards would take an ecosystem approach and bring together the whole range of interests in the various watersheds.

Thus far, the two federal governments have been very supportive. Secretary of State Albright and Foreign Minister Axworthy endorsed the recommendation in March 1998. The governments followed in November 1998 with a joint reference asking the Commission to further develop the recommendation. At a February 5, 1999 meeting in Washington, D.C., the IJC was encouraged by a wide range of senior government officials from both countries to continue developing ideas to implement this proposal. The IJC is also engaged in wide consultations, including regional workshops to discuss the practical application of the idea in actual watersheds. The first regional workshop took place in International Falls, Minnesota on March 23, 1999 and a second is being considered.

Much interest is developing and a great deal work still lies ahead. Determining the mandate, scope of work and operational capabilities for eventual watershed boards will not be easy. Matters of funding and actual participation will also need to be addressed. However, participation has been enthusiastic and interest is running high. To share comments on IJC’s proposed watershed approach, visit our Discussion Rooms .

Biennial Forum
Comes to Milwaukee

The International Joint Commission cordially invites you to attend our 1999 Great Lakes Water Quality Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 24-26, 1999.

The IJC and a dedicated team of local volunteers from the Milwaukee area have planned a weekend jam-packed with exciting events that will provide an opportunity for all attendees to testify at public hearings, participate in discussions and debates on Great Lakes issues, learn about a wide variety of topics and network with interesting people from around the Greats Lakes basin and beyond that have all come for the same purpose — furthering the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes.

Greater Milwaukee Convention Bureau

The IJC biennial forum has changed in size, shape and scope over the last two decades, but one thing remains the same — the enthusiasm of the people who attend this meeting and their devotion to our shared binational resource, the Great Lakes. We are proud to host this unique meeting every two years and hope you will join us in Milwaukee this September. For more information, check out the 1999 Great Lakes Water Quality Forum .

Two Projects Proposed
for Niagara River

In December 1998, the International Joint Commission received an application by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority to build a second bridge over the Niagara River parallel to the existing Peace Bridge. In May, the IJC approved construction. The original Peace Bridge was approved by the IJC in 1925.

The IJC was also asked by the Governments of the United States and Canada to investigate a proposal by Ontario Hydro to redevelop and expand its generating facilities on the Niagara River . The IJC looked at how the project would affect the design and operation of the remedial works that control water levels in the Chippewa-Grass Island pool just upstream of Niagara Falls. In May, the IJC concluded that there would be no effect.

The IJC held two public hearings on the projects in January.


IJC welcomes the recent appointments
to its boards:

Dr. William Taylor
College of Agriculture
and Natural Resources
Michigan State University
  Great Lakes Science Advisory Board

Steve Clarkson
Bureau of Chemical Hazards
Environmental Health Directorate Canada
  Great Lakes Water Quality Board

Guy Demers
Ministère de l'Environnement
et de la Faune du Québec
  Great Lakes Water Quality Board

Suzanne Hanson
Minnesota Pollution
Control Agency
  Great Lakes Water Quality Board
International Rainy River Water Pollution Board

Dr. James Nicholas
Michigan District
U.S. Geological Survey
  Council of Great Lakes Research Managers

Jeffrey Lewis
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  International Red River Pollution Board

Brian Symonds
Land and Water Management Program
British Columbia Ministry of Environment
  Osoyoos Lake Board of Control


And we thank those who have finished their service:

Rod Massey
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  Great Lakes Water Quality Board

Daniel P. Bauer
U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
  Council of Great Lakes Research Managers

Gaylen Reetz
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  International Rainy River
Water Pollution Board
International Red River Pollution Board


Hot Off the Press

For the full text of IJC reports is found on the publications page. Limited numbers of hard copies are also available from the IJC at (519)257-6734 in Canada, (313)226.2170 ext. 6734 in the United States, and
by email.

In its Nipigon Bay Stage 2 Review , the IJC commends the local Remedial Action Plan team for evaluating restoration activities in the Nipigon Bay Area of Concern and developing cost estimates that allow each to be prioritized.

The IJC’s St. Marys River Status Assessment reports on efforts by governments and others to restore and preserve the St. Marys River.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Board’s
Protecting What Has Been Gained in the Black River provides conclusions and recommendations from its October 1998 public meeting.

What’s Happening

Public meetings of the IJC and its boards:

June 2, 1999
International St. Lawrence Board of Control , Cornwall, ON

July 6, 1999
International Lake Superior Board of Control , Sault Ste. Marie, ON

July 7, 1999
International Joint Commission public hearing on Rainy and Namakan Lakes Orders of Approval, Fort Frances, ON

September 24-26, 1999
1999 IJC Biennial Forum on Great Lakes Water Quality , Milwaukee, WI.


In February, Lake Superior State University Dean Donald McCrimmon presented U.S. Section Chair Thomas Baldini with a token of appreciation for IJC’s work on the St. Marys River Status Assessment.

Credit: John R. Shibley.

Our New Look

In an effort to keep you up to date, while using our resources more efficiently, the IJC will highlight its activities with this new, more concise format of FOCUS four times per year. More complete information, including the full text of our reports, is available through our homepage at on he World Wide Web. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Save Trees —
Subscribe to IJC Announce!

To receive frequent updates on IJC activities via email and link directly to the full text of new IJC documents, subscribe to “IJC Announce.” To help conserve, ask us at the same time to stop sending you a paper copy of Focus.

Stay in Contact!

The IJC is interested in your views on any of our activities. You may contact us in the following ways:


  United States
  Great Lakes Regional Office

Contacts   Murray Clamen
Fabien Lengellé
Public Affairs
  Gerald Galloway
Frank Bevacqua
Public Affairs
  Tom Behlen
Jennifer Day
Public Affairs


Mail   100 Metcalfe Street
18th Floor
Ottawa, ON
K1P 5M1
  1250 23rd Street NW
Suite 100
Washington, DC 20440
  100 Ouellette Avenue, 8th Floor
Windsor, ON
N9A 6T3
P.O. Box 32869
Detroit, MI 48232-2869

Fax   613.993.5583   202.736-9015   519.257-6740

Telephone   613.995.2984   202.736.9000   519.257.6700

Home Page



Thomas Baldini,
U.S. Section Chair

Alice Chamberlin

Susan Bayh

Leonard Legault,
Canadian Section Chair

Frank Murphy

Robert Gourd


The International Joint Commission prevents and resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and pursues the common good of both countries as an independent and objective advisor to the two governments.

Join the Discussion!

The International Joint Commission's public meetings and forums have always given interested citizens from different geographic regions an opportunity to communicate with each other, as well as with the IJC. To extend this opportunity into the electronic age, we have created discussion rooms on our web site where citizens can post their views, invite comment and see what others have to say. Currently there are discussion rooms devoted to IJC's investigation of water uses, diversions and exports and the IJC's work on the watershed approach.