IJC Recommends Protecting Great Lakes Basin Waters
The International Joint Commission (IJC) had provided a blueprint for protecting the waters of the world's largest freshwater ecosystem, the Great Lakes Basin, from the potential impacts of water removals and consumptive uses.
Lake Michigan near Empire, Michigan. Credit: MI Travel
Lake Ontario near Port Hope, Ontario. Credit: M. Knutson
In its Final Report on Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes, the IJC recommends that Canadian and U.S. federal, provincial and state governments should not permit the removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin unless the proponent can demonstrate that the removal will not endanger the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
The proponent would also have to demonstrate that there are no practical alternatives to the removal, sound planning has been applied in the proposal, the cumulative impacts of the removal have been considered, conservation practices have been implemented, the removal results in no net loss of waters to the area from which it is taken (and, in any event, no greater than a five percent loss in the process, the current average loss within the Great Lakes Basin) and that all waters are returned in a condition that protects the quality of and prevents the introduction of alien invasive species into the waters of the Great Lakes Basin.
The report also recommends that, in order to avoid endangering the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem, the governments should not approve any proposal for a major new or increased consumptive use of water from the Great Lakes Basin unless full consideration has been given to its potential cumulative impacts, and unless effective conservation practices are implemented, sound planning practices applied, and that all waters returned meet the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Moreover, the report recommends that governments apply a number of specific conservation measures to significantly improve efficiencies in the use of water in the Great Lakes Basin, including the setting of water prices at a level that encourages conservation.
Because there is uncertainty about the availability of Great Lakes water to meet all ecosystem needs, including human needs, over the long term, the report concludes that water should be managed with caution to protect the resource for the future. It also concludes that international trade law obligations, including the provisions of NAFTA and GATT, do not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources and preserving the integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem so long as there is no discrimination against individuals from other countries in the application of those measures.
The final report responds to the request made by the governments of Canada and the United States in their February 10, 1999 Water Uses Reference for recommendations for the protection of the Great Lakes. The IJC obtained data and information from a variety of sources, including 20 public hearings. The Final Report on Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes is available online at www.ijc.org, or from an IJC office.
Commissioners Establish Work Priorities for the 1999-2001 Biennial Cycle
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement calls on the IJC to report every two years on the governments' progress toward achieving the objectives of the Agreement. Based on this reporting cycle, the IJC plans its priority work in two-year cycles culminating with its Agreement advisory boards' report to the IJC, Priorities and Progress under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; its Biennial Public Forum; and finally the publication of its Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality.
For this priority cycle, which began in late 1999 and will run through the end of 2001, four major projects have been identified for study: Assessment of Progress under the Great Lakes Binational Toxic Strategy; Review of Programs Regulating Introduction of Biological Pollution into the Great Lakes; Community Health and the Relationship to Pollution; and the Investigation of Source-Receptor Relationships for Atmospheric Deposition of Mercury to the Great Lakes.
Other on-going priority work includes the communication of research results; the research inventory and research vessel inventory; the modeling summit; general work under Annex 15 of the Agreement -- Airborne Toxic Substances; acid gas emissions; aquaculture; water quantity; government resource trends; government mercury stockpiles; and biodiversity and habitat.
In addition to these areas of study, the IJC is committed to on-going assessment and review of the governments' Great Lakes Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) and Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs). In 1996, after expressing concern with overall progress in some AOCs, IJC initiated status assessments in individual AOCs. During the 1999-2001 work cycle, status assessments will begin on the binational St. Lawrence and Niagara rivers and Maumee River (Ohio) Areas of Concern.
Maumee River Area of Concern. Credit: TLCPA
Additional information about these priority work areas can be found on the Internet at www.ijc.org. Opportunities for ongoing public participation on these subjects throughout the next two years will be announced as scheduled.
Hamilton Harbour Status Assessment and Stage 2 Remedial Action Plan Review
Northeast shoreline, Hamilton Harbour. Credit: Ham. Harbour RAP
In December 1999, the IJC completed both its status assessment of government agencies and other organizations working to clean up Hamilton Harbour, Ontario and its review of the Stage 2 RAP. A key issue in both the assessment and RAP review deals with the contaminated sediment found in the Harbour.
An important part of the RAP process is the evaluation and selection of remedial measures. The IJC found that with respect to contaminated sediment, this evaluation could be more adequately done through an explicit comparison of alternative options for cleanup. For example, the IJC is aware of ongoing human health concerns in this Area of Concern related to consumption of contaminated fish caught from the Harbour. A comparison of how various sediment remediation options might reduce levels of fish contamination over time would certainly aid the decision- making process.
Highlights in the cleanup process include the construction of combined sewer overflow tanks, which result in considerable reductions in the release of untreated sewage and the local elected officials and Bay Area Restoration Council, whom have provided a considerable level of attention and effort toward the achievement of remedial actions.
The IJC believes the adoption of a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses in the Hamilton Harbour AOC will contribute to closer scrutiny of sources of persistent toxic substances. This scrutiny should contribute to lowered risks to human health. The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada should consider future funding needs to remediate contaminated sediment in Hamilton Harbour and insure that adequate funding is continued for organizations such as the local Bay Area Restoration Council.
IJC Adopts Supplementary Order for Rainy and Namakan Lakes
On January 6, 2000 the IJC issued a Supplementary Order for the control of Rainy and Namakan Lakes water levels and outflows. Full text of the orders can be viewed on the IJC web site at http://www.ijc.org/rel/news/rainyorderfinal.ht ml(.) Hard copies also are available from the IJC section offices.
IJC Issues Supplementary Order of Approval for Peace Bridge Expansion
The IJC issued a Supplementary Order of Approval on December 28, 1999 for the proposed expansion of the Peace Bridge over the Niagara River. The Supplementary Order amends the current Order issued on April 30, 1999 by extending the timeframe for construction of the project by one year. Construction affecting water levels and flows must begin by December 31, 2000 and conclude by December 31, 2004, unless the project is essentially complete.
The Supplementary Order was issued after consideration of a request from the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority as the start of construction has been delayed by lawsuits.
Watershed 2000 Conference
The International Joint Commission is pleased to support Watershed 2000, a conference being held this summer in Vancouver, British Columbia. The conference is sponsored by The Water Environment Federation, the British Columbia Water and Waste Association and the Western Canada Water and Wastewater Association. The Pacific Northwest exhibits many common climatic and ecological features, yet the political and jurisdictional boundaries spanned by many of its watersheds create challenges to effective watershed management. The contrasts and common approaches among Canadian and U.S. federal agencies and among the state, provincial, and tribal/band agencies will be explored.
The conference, scheduled from July 10-12, will address multi-disciplinary approaches, multimedia considerations, role of stakeholders, role of the public, proactive planning and ecosystem considerations. The pre-conference workshop, on July 9, will focus on regulatory issues, success stories, partnerships, theoretical and practical approaches to specific topics.
An exposition will present the latest products and services for utilization in watersheds. The product display provides an opportunity for purchasers to discuss first hand with the manufacturers the various equipment available in the marketplace.
For more information and registration material, contact the Water Environment Federation's Member Services Centre at 1-800-666-0206 or email@example.com or check out the conference web site at http://www.wef.org/conferences/index.htm(.)
IJC welcomes the recent appointments
to its boards: