International Joint Commission
Fall 1999
Volume 24, Issue 3

IJC Hears from Citizens on Water Uses,
Diversions and Removals

Seeking comment on its interim report, Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes , the International Joint Commission (IJC) held 12 hearings in the Great Lakes basin and the Canadian and U.S. national capitals in September and October. The IJC heard from environmentalists, Native Americans/First Nations, government officials, professors, students, shoreline residents, trade unionists, industry and many others at the well-attended sessions.

Most comments were supportive of the IJC's interim report, which recommended a moratorium on any new bulk sales or removals of water from the Great Lakes basin until the IJC completes its final report. However, many were openly skeptical that the era of major diversions and water transfers has ended in the United States and Canada and called for a permanent ban on bulk sales and removals of Great Lakes water.

"Don't sell our water to the highest bidder," was by far the most common theme sounded at the hearings. Many speakers voiced concern over possible impacts on the Great Lakes region's ecosystem, economy and quality of life, including the exercise of aboriginal treaty rights.

But could restrictions on the removal of water withstand possible future challenges in domestic courts or international trade tribunals? Various legal experts suggested at the hearings that such restrictions would likely be possible, but that they would have to be drawn up with extreme care.

Speakers at the hearings also pointed to the need for more information and analysis in critical areas during the second phase of the IJC's investigation. Among others, these included gathering better data on water use in the basin, assessing the potential impacts of water use and removal on the environment and human activities, further analyzing trade law and looking into the privatization of water utilities.

Copies of Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes are available from IJC offices or under the "water uses reference" button at on the Internet. The IJC's final report will be transmitted to the Governments of the United States and Canada and the public in February 2000.

George Gibbons and the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909

The Boundary Waters Treaty was negotiated and signed by Great Britain and the United States of America during the first decade of the 20th century, the result of an assessment by American Secretary of State Elihu Root that, between the two countries, there were several contentious issues including the matter of boundary waters. Boundary water issues included negotiations on such subjects as developing hydro-electric power, diverting water for irrigation and sanitary purposes, regulating water levels and controlling water pollution.

When the three countries (Canada, Britain, and the United States) met to discuss the these issues, they disposed of minor matters and agreed upon approaches to resolve the major ones. The strategy adopted for boundary waters was proposed by George Gibbons, a lawyer from London, Ontario, who had chaired the International Waterways Commission (IWC) since it had been established in 1903. The IWC, which had equal Canadian and American membership, examined joint concerns on the Great Lakes without the power to resolve them. Frustrated with this ineffectiveness, George Gibbons was committed to achieving workable results.

For two years (1907-1909), he patiently drafted and negotiated what would become the Boundary Waters Treaty until all three countries reached an agreement. Signed in 1909, the treaty established the International Joint Commission, a permanent body that gave Ottawa and Washington a mechanism to address issues directly under the terms of the treaty. It met all of Gibbon's requirements for workability so successfully that its framework is still used 90 years later with few alterations.

To mark the 90th anniversary of the BWT, the University of Western Ontario in collaboration with the IJC, held a seminar last October on the treaty and the IJC entitled "The International Joint Commission: Retrospect and Prospect." Concurrently, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled a plaque honoring the work of George Gibbons and the IJC. The plaque is located in Gibbons Park in London, Ontario.

Notice of Review of Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Annex X of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement requires thegovernments of Canada and the United States conduct a review of its operation and effectiveness every six years.

Currently, a comprehensive review of the Annexes will determine if changes could improve the Agreement’s operation and effectiveness. Several Annexes may require revision in order to make them more relevant to current programs and/or to the current state of scientific knowledge. The following Annexes are under consideration:

1 - Specific Objectives; 2 - Remedial Action Plans and Lakewide Management Plans;
3 - Control of Phosphorus; 7- Dredging;
11 - Surveillance and Monitoring;
12 - Persistent Toxic Substances; and
14 - Contaminated Sediments.
A paper outlining the options for each Annex under review is expected to be available electronically in early January at and and in hard copy by contacting the following:

Karl Schaefer
Great Lakes Corporate Affairs Office Environment Canada - Ontario Region
867 Lakeshore Road, P.O. Box 5050 Burlington ON L7R 4A6
Attention: Review of GLWQA
fax: (905) 336-8901

James Schardt
Great Lakes National Program Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
77 West Jackson Boulevard (G-17J)
Chicago IL 60604
Attention: Review of GLWQA
fax: (312) 353-2018
A 60-day review period for public consultation will commence in early 2000.

1999 Great Lakes Water Quality Forum

Taken from the closing remarks delivered by Canadian Chairman Leonard Legault at the 1999 Great Lakes Water Quality Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

"This concludes our 1999 Great Lakes Water Quality Forum. As always, we were impressed by your interest, enthusiasm and concern for the Great Lakes and the quality of their waters. We were struck by the quality of the presentations made throughout the Forum. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic assistance provided by the many volunteers who composed the local committee and who did so much to make our Forum a success.

"The one thing I want to assure all of you is that what you have told us, the concerns you have brought to our attention during the Forum have been heard. Let me mention one thing in particular that he have heard. We've heard concerns about symbols. Look around you and look at all the young people who are here. That's the symbol that I'm going to take away from Milwaukee. A symbol of the dedication of the public, of the average citizen, to the maintenance and restoration of the physical, biological and ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.

"I believe in symbols. I believe too in metaphor. To me, the Commission is the conscience of the governments with respect to their obligation under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. You, the public and the members of the non-governmental organizations, are the keepers of that conscience. Especially, the eloquent manifestation of your role as keepers of the conscience is your presence here and the concern expressed by that presence. I thank all of you, but particularly the very youngest among you, for your presence here gives us greater courage, enthusiasm and inspiration, to do the job that we have been appointed to do.

"We've heard a number of others things as well. I will mention only a very few. We've heard that although the Great Lakes are cleaner, there's much left to be done. We've heard some specifics about what's left to be done. Better binational coordination of LaMPs and RAPs is needed. More important still, we've been told that some jurisdictions around the Great Lakes have stopped collecting vitally needed data for the monitoring of the progress under the Agreement. We're also told that the IJC should play an important role in working to close the gaps between local groups and the federal authorities. And that the IJC should take the lead in developing a common standard for the monitoring and control of invasive exotic species.

"I would also like to express on behalf of the Commission as a whole, the gratitude to everyone who contributed to this meeting and for being so utterly devoted to making the Forum a success. Our thanks to all."


IJC Completes Review of Stage 1 Lake Ontario LaMP

The IJC has released its review of the first stage of the Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) being developed for Lake Ontario by the Governments of Canada and the United States. The management plan provides information toward documenting the environmental problems to be addressed by the governments. According to the IJC review, which is required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, shortcomings exist in defining the threat to human health and in estimating the total loadings of Critical Pollutants to the lake. The IJC notes that the LaMP has not directly addressed either findings from research conducted at Oswego, New York, which examined and documented neurobehavioral effects on infants from maternal consumption of environmentally contaminated Lake Ontario salmon or trout, or findings from several other studies which clearly demonstrate exposure of sub-populations to high levels of Critical Pollutants.

Lakewide Management Plans are being developed for each of the lakes as part of a process to reduce loadings of Critical Pollutants to open lake waters so that the water is safe for drinking, swimming and fishing, and supports healthy fish and wildlife populations along with other "beneficial uses" listed in the Agreement. The first stage of the LaMP is to define the environmental problems posed by Critical Pollutants, including the threat to human health and aquatic life. Critical Pollutants are substances that persist, singly or in combination with other substances, at levels that affect human health or aquatic life and impair beneficial uses. The six Critical Pollutants designated in the Stage 1 LaMP for Lake Ontario include pesticides ( DDT, dieldrin, and mirex) and other organic substances (PCBs, dioxin, and mercury).

The Commission notes that Lake Ontario LaMP's goals have been furthered by the following efforts:

  • development of the Lake Ontario Toxics Management Plan (LOTMP); and
  • implementation of the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan (NRTMP).

These efforts provide a substantial contribution toward the reduction of loadings of Critical Pollutants. For example, the NRTMP's previous target for 50 per cent reduction in loadings of dioxin, mercury, mirex and PCBs to the Niagara River represents a step toward the virtual elimination goal.

The Agreement requires that LaMPs be submitted to the Commission for its review and comment at four stages: problem definition, load reduction schedule, selection of remedial measures, and when Critical Pollutants are no longer impairing beneficial water uses. For further information contact Bruce Kirschner at the International Joint Commission Regional Office, 100 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, Ontario (519-257-6710) or P.O. Box 32869, Detroit, Michigan (313-226-2170 ext. 6710) or email:



IJC welcomes the recent appointments
to its boards:

Daniel Roronhioke:wen
Department of Native Studies
Trent University
Great Lakes Science Advisory Board
Lori F. Kaplan
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Great Lakes Water Quality Board
Dr. Theodore L. Hullar
Center for Environment
Cornell University
International St. Lawrence River Board of Control
Charles E. Christ, U.S. Co-director
St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
International Red River Basin Task Force
Dr. Alan Abelsohn, Canadian Co-chair
Chair, Committee on Environmental Health
Ontario College of Family Physicians
Health Professionals Task Force
And we thank those who have finished their service:
John Hamilton
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Great Lakes Water Quality Board
Tom Brown
New York Department of Environmental Management
International St. Lawrence River Board of Control
Renata Claudi
Ontario Hydro
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Dr. W. Gary Sprules
Professor of Zoology
University of Toronto, Erindale College
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers


Hot Off the Press

For the full text of IJC reports, click on the publications button at or go to the specific web site below. 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.

The IJC's Lake Ontario Stage 1 Lakewide Management Plan Review has been completed and is now available.

Toward a Watershed Monitoring Framework for the Toronto Region is based on a public workshop co-sponsored by the Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan and the IJC's Great Lakes Water Quality Board.

The IJC's Hamilton Harbor Status Assessment reports on efforts by governments and others to restore and protect the Hamilton Harbor Area of Concern.

The Plan of Study to review Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River regulation describes in detail the work required to review the regulation of water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

1997-1999 Priorities and Progress Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is a compilation of the work of IJC advisory boards. It is currently available on the Internet and will be made available in hard copy in December 1999.

What's Happening

Public meetings of the IJC and its boards:

February 1-2, 2000

International Air Quality Advisory Board , Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.

February 24-25, 2000

Great Lakes Science Advisory Board , Windsor, ON

March 22-23, 2000

Council of Great Lakes Research Managers , Walpole Island, ON


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   234 Laurier Avenue West
22nd Floor
Ottawa, ON
K1P 6K6
  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.