International Joint Commission
Winter 2000
Volume 25, Issue 4

No "silver bullets" for solving Red River flooding problems

On December 6, 2000, the International Joint Commission released its final report, Living with the Red, A Report to the Governments of Canada and the United States on Reducing Flood Impacts in the Red River Basin . The report responds to the governments? request following the devastating 1997 flood of the century that the IJC recommend ways to avoid or reduce damages from future Red River floods. The 1997 flood caused damages approaching $5 billion (U.S. dollars). The Red River flows north along the Minnesota-North Dakota boundary into Manitoba; a small portion of South Dakota also lies within the watershed.

The IJC noted that large floods in the Red River basin will occur again. In fact, the basin has experienced other large floods, such as in 1979, 1950 and 1897. The largest flood on record in Winnipeg occurred in 1826. The IJC addressed the flood risks of major population centers in the basin. For example, Winnipeg, Manitoba narrowly averted disaster during the 1997 flood. Further work is required to protect its population of 600,000 while respecting the interests of those outside the city who might be affected by flood protection measures. The IJC also noted that the ecosystem of the Red River valley will be threatened unless steps are taken to protect it as part of the process of developing flood damage reduction solutions.

Credit: City of Winnipeg

The challenge is to focus on avoiding flood damages and dealing with floods that do occur. The IJC noted that there are many approaches to reducing flood damages reservoir storage, levees, relocation, flood-proofing, micro-storage, wetland restoration and no single approach alone will solve all the problems. There are no silver bullets. People and property of the Red River basin will remain at undue risk until comprehensive, integrated, binational solutions to flood problems are developed and implemented.

The International Red River Basin Task Force, established by the IJC to investigate ways of reducing or eliminating flood damages from major floods, developed numerous tools that will be of continuing utility within the basin. These tools include hydraulic models to help analyze flood flows, high-resolution topographic and land use data for certain flood-prone areas, and the framework for a virtual network linking the people, data and models for the Red River basin. Ultimately, the IJC envisions collaborative efforts on both sides of the border linking people throughout the basin and leading to real-time information sharing, on-line education and integrated databases and models in an on-line format that can be used by managers and others throughout the basin. The IJC strongly advocates that governments support the work required to further develop these tools.

There is also a need for binational institutional arrangements to deal with the transboundary flooding issues that will arise. Accordingly, the IJC recommended that its International Red River Board be assigned some flood-related functions and that governments work with the Board and existing and emerging bilateral organizations to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place for coordinating and implementing measures for flood-preparedness and mitigation activities, and to implement the recommendations from the IJC?s report. In January, the IJC will conduct public hearings on a proposed directive for its International Red River Board that includes transboundary flood-related functions intended to assist the governments in further enhancing flood preparedness in the Red River basin. Times and locations of the hearings will be posted in December on the IJC?s web site at . Copies of Living with the Red are available on the IJC?s web site, or from an IJC office.

IJC receives Canadian funding for study of Lake Ontario outflows

In November, the Canadian Government provided initial funding for the International Joint Commission?s study of water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. This complements the initial funding previously provided by the U.S. Government and enables the IJC to move forward with the study.

The study will review the criteria for regulating Lake Ontario outflows set by the IJC in 1956. These criteria are contained in the IJC?s Orders of Approval for the hydroelectric project that spans the St. Lawrence River between Massena, New York and Cornwall, Ontario.

To prepare for the study, the IJC has met with U.S. and Canadian agencies to identify existing research that might contribute to its study. Similar meetings are planned with university researchers.

As we go to press, the IJC is considering the membership of its Study Board and the Public Interest Advisory Group that will advise the Study Board. To view recent announcements on the study and other IJC activities, visit our website at and click on news releases. If you wish to receive current announcements by email, go to our website and subscribe to ?IJC Announce.?

Great Lakes Water Quality Updates

Atmospheric deposition

What legal tools are available, under current Canadian and United States law, to control atmospheric deposition of persistent toxic substances to the Great Lakes originating from sources within and outside the basin?

This question was the focus of a workshop, held in the form of a moot court, by the IJC?s International Air Quality Advisory Board and Great Lakes Water Quality Board on October 26-27, 1999. Workshop proceedings are now available that contain written submissions, oral presentations, questions and discussion.

The proceedings are designed to appeal to both the legal community and others interested in environmental protection. To obtain a copy of The Protection of Great Lakes Water Quality from Atmospheric Contaminant Deposition , contact an IJC office or visit our website at and click on publications and IJC board reports.

Niagara River clean up

In support of the IJC?s effort to assess the status of restoration and protection of beneficial uses the Niagara River Area of Concern, the IJC?s Great Lakes Science Advisory Board held a public meeting in Niagara Falls on November 29, 2000. The meeting involved scientific discussions of local interest and a moderated public discussion. Discussions with scientists, officials and the public will aid the IJC in developing advice for the governments of the United States and Canada on the restoration of the Niagara River. Additional consultation sessions will be held in the area as the IJC develops its status assessment of the Niagara River Area of Concern. The IJC expects to issue its status assessment report by summer 2001. For more information, contact Bruce Kirschner in the IJC?s Great Lakes Regional Office by email at kirschnerb@ , or telephone at (313) 226-2170, extension 6710.

More information is also available directly from agencies that are working to restore the Niagara River. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), hazardous waste sites are the most significant nonpoint sources of toxic substances to the Niagara River. The U.S. EPA and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) identified 26 U.S. sites, which they estimate are responsible for over 99 percent of the input from U.S. hazardous waste sites. The agencies have completed construction of remedial measures at 14 of the sites and have actions underway at nine additional sites. To date, the U.S. EPA estimates that remediation has reduced potential inputs to the river by approximately 90 percent. Current schedules call for all sites to be remediated by 2003. Annual U.S. EPA and NYSDEC progress reports are available on the web at For more information, contact Mike Basile by email at , or telephone at (716) 285 8842.


IJC welcomes the recent appointments to its boards.

David de Launay
Director, Lands and Waters Branch,
Natural Resources Management Division
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Great Lakes Water Quality Board
James M. Haynes
Research Director, New York Great Lakes Consortium;
Professor, Biological Sciences,
State University of New York College at Brockport
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Thomas C. Johnson
Professor and Director, Large Lakes Observatory,
University of Minnesota at Duluth
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Paul J. Horvatin
Programs Manager,
Monitoring, Indicators and Reporting Branch,
Great Lakes National Programs Office,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Dr. Irene Bucka
Associate Clinical Professor,
University of Alberta;
Pediatrician Misericordia Hospital and
University of Alberta Hospital
Health Professionals Task Force
Dr. John Dellinger
Director, Illinois Poison Center
Health Professionals Task Force
Dr. Ellen Silbergeld
Director, Program in Human Health
and the Environment,
University of Maryland Medical School
Health Professionals Task Force
Colonel Ralph H. Graves
U.S. Section Co-chair
Commander and District Engineer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
International Kootenay Lake Board of Control
International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control
And we thank those who have finished their service.
Dr. James Ashman
Director, Ministry and Corporate Affairs,
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs
Great Lakes Water Quality Board
Dr. J.Val Klump
Center for Great Lakes Studies,
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Dr. Russell A. Moll
Director, Michigan Sea Grant,
University of Michigan
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Richard MacDonald
Associate Director, Training and Development,
United Nations University, International Network
on Water, Environment and Health,
McMaster University
Council of Great Lakes Research Managers
Colonel James M. Rigsby
U.S. Section Co-chair
Commander and District Engineer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
International Kootenay Lake Board of Control
International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control


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.

Living with the Red: A Report to the Governments of Canada and the United States on Reducing Flood Impacts in the Red River Basin. International Joint Commission. .

Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes CD -- ROM contains the IJC?s final report to the governments of Canada and the United States along with the transcripts of public hearings and other supporting documents. To receive a copy, contact an IJC office.

Protection of Great Lakes Water Quality From Atmospheric Contaminant Deposition. Proceedings of a legal workshop held at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, October 26-27, 1999. .

IJC's Tenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality cites the cleanup of contaminated sediment, human health concerns from eating contaminated Great Lakes fish, air deposition of persistent toxic substances, urban land use, and monitoring and information needs as major concerns in the new report. .

IJC 1999 Great Lakes Water Quality Forum Transcripts from the September 24-26 meeting held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are available online. .

What's Happening

Mark Your Calendars!

The International Joint Commission will hold its Public Forum on Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Water Quality at the Delta Centre-Ville Hotel in Montreal, Quebec on September 14-15, 2001. The purpose of the Public Forum is to energize Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River community groups to work in partnership with the IJC and governments at all levels to carry out the purpose of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Government agencies will report on programs and progress to restore the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem followed by an interactive public hearing and discussion. For the first time, the Public Forum will focus on efforts to restore the St. Lawrence River and sharing these experiences with Great Lakes community members. Workshops and cutting edge keynote presentations will also be offered in the Public Forum. Anyone interested in the future direction of Great Lakes policy should plan on attending this conference. There is no conference fee to participate. Visit our website at and click on the Public Forum button for updated information.

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   202.467.7046   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

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.