Canadian Commissioners appointed
On March 30, the Government of Canada appointed
Ms. Mary Gusella
, of Ontario,
Dr. Jack Blaney
, of British Columbia, as Commissioners of the International
Joint Commission (IJC). The Canadian Commissioners selected Ms. Gusella to
serve as chair of the Canadian Section.
Ms. Gusella joined the federal public service in 1971 and has served in a
number of senior positions, including Deputy Minister for the Leadership
Network, Commissioner of the Public Service Commission of Canada, President of
the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Chair and President of Enterprise
Cape Breton, Deputy Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada,
Associate Under Secretary of State, and Assistant Secretary of the Cabinet
(communications) in the Privy Council Office.
In over 30 years of senior administration in post-secondary education, Dr. Jack
Blaney worked with colleagues to extend degree completion opportunities to
adults throughout British Columbia; created liberal arts, public affairs and
professional continuing education programs; established the Simon Fraser
University downtown campus and Centre for Dialogue; and headed one of Canada's
premier universities. He also has worked with institutional partners to help
make the overall higher education system work well for the citizens of British
The IJC wishes former Canadian Section Chairman Leonard Legault and
Commissioner Frank Murphy well and thanks them for their service.
Join us in Montréal at the
Public Forum on Great Lakes~St. Lawrence Water Quality
September 14-15, 2001!
Workshop on air deposition of mercury to be held at Montréal Public Forum
Did you know that over 1,100 kilograms (2,400 pounds) of mercury are deposited
into Lake Michigan annually from the atmosphere – 86 percent of the total
loading! And that coal burning power plants and other fossil fuels are
responsible for over one half of mercury emissions in the United States.
Municipal and medical waste incineration make up close to 40 percent of U.S.
Air deposition of toxic chemicals, such as mercury, to the Great Lakes is now
established as a major source of pollution, and one that is very difficult to
To review the state of the science and move the policy discussion forward, the
IJC's International Air Quality Advisory Board and the North American
Commission for Environmental Cooperation will join together in Montréal, during
the Public Forum on Great Lakes Water Quality, for a workshop,
Addressing Atmospheric Mercury: Science and Policy
This workshop will be of interest to a broad scope of participants, including
policy makers, scientists and others. In addition to summarizing the harmful
impact of mercury on the ecosystem, particularly human health, the workshop
will review information on regional, continental and global sources of mercury,
including U.S., Canadian and Mexican emissions inventories. A portion of the
day will include presentations by leading modelers on their efforts to link
these sources to deposition in the Great Lakes and other bodies of water. The
workshop will conclude with a discussion of the policy implications of the
The Public Forum will be held in Montréal, Québec on September 14-15, 2001. For
more information, visit
and click on
"Montréal Public Forum."
Great Lakes Water Quality Board reports on alien invasive species
The Great Lakes are facing a biological invasion that can displace important
native species, interfere with beneficial human water uses and cost billions of
dollars to correct. Alien invasive species (AIS) are plants or animals that
have been relocated accidently or intentionally from their original habitats to
other, often-distant locations. Not all non-native species will adjust to their
new locale, but many thrive and grow in the absence of their natural controls,
such as predators, pathogens and environmental conditions.
In May 2001, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board released a white paper with
recommendations for consideration by the International Joint Commission (IJC)
to address the AIS problem. The board was asked by the IJC to review existing
and other potential regulatory programs for attempting to control the
introduction of AIS to the Great Lakes.
Sources of AIS to the Great Lakes basin include aquaculture, escapes from
aquaria, ornamental ponds, research and educational facilities, canal and
diversion water flows and releases of live bait. However, the single most
significant source for alien invasive species in the Great Lakes is the
discharge of ballast water from ships coming from outside the United States and
Regulations currently exist to guard against AIS. Vessels entering the Great
Lakes region from outside the United States or Canada are required to exchange
their ballast water outside the 200 nautical-mile zone in waters at least 2,000
Unfortunately, approximately 80 percent of vessels entering the Great Lakes
basin report “no ballast on board” (NOBOB). This declaration exempts them from
current ballast-water exchange requirements even though they may contain a
significant quantity of unpumpable ballast water and sediment. Living organisms
in the residual ballast water and sediment can be released into the Great Lakes
– and potentially cause environmental and economic havoc – when these ships
take on and release ballast water in the basin.
The board recommends ballast water standards be immediately developed,
implemented and enforced throughout the Great Lakes region. The board believes
it is necessary to take action and invest resources directed at developing
effective water treatment technologies for addressing this problem over the
long term. While development of long-term solutions must proceed as quickly as
possible, the board recommends that short-term emergency measures be
undertaken, including possible chemical treatment of ballast water. According
to the board, it is essential for the federal governments to work alongside
shippers and encourage modifications in the design of existing and future
The white paper highlights the need to develop contingency plans for responding
to accidental discharges or spills of untreated ballast water, as well as any
new discovery of alien invasive species. Because no single solution will
address the entire problem, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board stresses that a
binational, preventative approach is the key for efficient and cost-effective
solutions to reducing the impact of AIS in the Great Lakes.
The full text of the white paper is available at the following website:
Public group advises Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Study
by Dalton Foster and Fred Parkinson
The International Joint Commission (IJC) recently initiated a five-year study
of regulation of the water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Since completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, the levels have been
controlled with the primary objective of satisfying requirements of the
hydropower industry, commercial navigation and riparians. For a number of years
now, other people along the system, both individuals and associations, have
made it known that their interests should also be incorporated into the
regulation plan. Prime among their concerns are the environment, shoreline
erosion, recreational boating and tourism.
Recognizing the diversity of views, the IJC set up a Public Interest Advisory
Group (PIAG) to act as a contact organization between the public and the
technical/scientific working groups actually carrying out the studies. Members
of PIAG are all volunteers, and many have long been associated with efforts to
review and possibly improve the manner in which the lake and river system is
The volunteers come from varied backgrounds and geographic areas. Some own
businesses, some have scientific training, many are primarily concerned with
the environment, and others are simply concerned residents. They come from the
western extremes of Lake Ontario down to the lower St. Lawrence River in the
east. They come from both Canada and the United States, 12 from each country.
The mission of the group is to serve as an active communications link between
the public and both the IJC and the scientific/technical working groups.
Classically, this has been a daunting task. In a recent issue of the journal
Science, Sir Robert May, president of the Royal Society of London, discusses
this challenge in an editorial entitled “Science and Society.” In this
editorial he asks how best to conduct the dialogue, as old as democracy itself,
between government policymakers and the public in complex scientific areas, in
a manner that fosters trust.
Sir Robert offers advice. “Consult widely and get the best people; but also
make sure that dissenting voices are heard; recognize and admit uncertainty;
and above all, be open and publish all advice.”
These are not easy tasks. People's subjective outlooks greatly influence their
perception of the information they receive and what they observe on the lake or
river. We on the PIAG are aware that there are varied, and sometimes
conflicting, views held by people within the system from different geographic
areas and with different water level concerns. The PIAG will need to not only
bridge the communications gap between the public and the IJC and
scientific/technical groups, but also between the various areas and interests
among the publics.
The PIAG has chosen two initial tasks. First, we have put together a general
informational presentation package that we hope will better explain the scope
of the study and what is to be done. This information will be presented in
open, public meetings, in which the people are invited to take part in active
question and answer sessions on their local situations. Secondly, and most
importantly, we will be asking the public to fill in survey questionnaires
describing how their experiences, both good and bad, are influenced by the
water levels. We will bring this information back to the study process. At the
end of the day, the results of the study should reflect the interests and
real-world of the public.
Dalton Foster and Fred Parkinson are co-chairs of the Public Interest Advisory
Group. If you would like to receive more information, or schedule a
presentation in your area, please contact Amanda Morelli, the study public
affairs representative, at (613) 992-5727.
Osoyoos Lake regulation responds to drought
Drought operations for Osoyoos Lake, which crosses the British
Columbia-Washington boundary, were announced by the International Osoyoos Lake
Board of Control in April. Drought operations will continue until October 31,
2001, unless conditions change and no longer meet the drought criteria in the
orders of approval issued by the International Joint Commission.
During a drought, the orders allow Osoyoos Lake to be regulated between
elevations 910.5 and 913.0 feet (U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey) from April
through October in order to ensure an adequate water supply for irrigation.
Normally the lake must be kept within a smaller range of 911.0-911.5 feet.
Progress made in the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern
In March, the International Joint Commission (IJC) held a public meeting and
informal consultation in Cornwall, Ontario, to begin its status assessment of
the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern (AOC). More than 60 people participated,
including representatives from Environment Canada, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and other government agencies and local organizations from
both sides of the border.
Progress is being made in many areas. The Cornwall portion of the AOC is moving
forward in the control of combined sewer overflows, fishery habitat
enhancements and agricultural nonpoint source pollution prevention. An upgrade
of Cornwall's sewage treatment plant is under consideration and a study is
underway, assessing mercury contamination in the Cornwall waterfront area.
In May, the IJC's Science Advisory Board toured the superfund cleanup
activities on the New York side of the river. The Alcoa East Plant has begun a
large sediment remediation project totaling 60,000 to 75,000 cubic metres
(80,000 to 100,000 cubic yards) of PCB contaminated sediment to be removed from
the St. Lawrence River.
This is the fifth such assessment undertaken by the IJC.
Status assessments examine progress, assess program implementation and make
recommendations on specific activities to make measurable progress in restoring
the area. They are not comprehensive environmental audits; instead, they assess
ongoing efforts and activities of the local organizations and responsible
governments. Through these assessments, the IJC facilitates constructive
interaction among various agencies providing the opportunity to exchange ideas
and advance the process toward restoration of the AOC.
IJC welcomes the recent appointments to its boards.