Dennis Schornack appointed as Chair of the U.S. Section
Dennis L. Schornack was appointed to chair the U.S. Section of the IJC by President George W. Bush and assumed office on April 8, 2002. The experience he brings to the IJC includes more than 22 years of public service in health and natural resources policy development and implementation. Mr. Schornack served in senior positions under Michigan Governor John Engler, including Special Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, Director of the Office of Health Care Reform and Policy Development and Senior Policy Advisor. Previously he served as Executive Assistant for Legislative Affairs to Michigan Senate Majority Leader John Engler, as a Health Policy Analyst in the Michigan House of Representatives and as a Rehabilitation Counselor with the Greater Lansing Urban League.
Mr. Schornack co-led the development of Annex 2001, an agreement between the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces to manage Great Lakes water uses and diversions. Throughout his tenure with Governor Engler, Mr. Schornack served as Board Member of the Great Lakes Protection Fund and Michigan’s Commissioner of Low-Level Radioactive Waste. Through his leadership on the Great Lakes Protection Fund, he pioneered efforts by Great Lakes states to develop new technologies to stem the introduction of alien invasive species to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to restore natural hydrological flows in the basin. He was instrumental in establishing the only fresh water national marine sanctuary in the United States at Thunder Bay, near Alpena, Michigan.
Mr. Schornack earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of Michigan in 1979, an M.A. degree in counseling at Michigan State University in 1976, and B.A. and B.S. degrees in biology, and speech and hearing science at Michigan State University in 1975. He is an avid golfer and scuba diver who lives in Williamston, Michigan, with his wife, Linda Gobler. He is also an active member of the Potter Park Zoological Society board of directors and St. Luke Lutheran Church.
From the Great Lakes Regional Office Director
Many national and regional priorities compete for scarce resources. For governments to obtain sufficient funds to meet their commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, they must clearly articulate their priorities and their commitment to restoring the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.
The recently released U.S. Great Lakes Strategy and new Canada-Ontario Agreement demonstrate progress in the development of refined strategies and help build public and political support to sustain long-term restoration initiatives.
The U.S. Great Lakes Strategy was developed cooperatively by the U.S. Policy Committee, a forum of senior-level representatives from federal, state, and tribal natural resource management agencies and environmental protection agencies.
The Strategy specifies a long-range vision for the Great Lakes:
- the Great Lakes Basin is a healthy natural environment for wildlife and people;
- all Great Lakes beaches are open for swimming;
- all Great Lakes fish are safe to eat; and
- the Great Lakes are protected as a safe source of drinking water.
In my opinion, arriving at a consensus on the long-range vision and specific goals among the federal government, jurisdictions, tribes and public is a significant achievement. I look forward to improved planning and coordination that will facilitate the implementation of clean up and protection efforts.
I also note the achievement of Canada and Ontario in reaching a consensus on a vision for the Great Lakes under a new Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA). The vision is to achieve a “healthy, prosperous and sustainable Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem for present and future generations.” I likewise anticipate an increased level of effort directed to Great Lakes restoration through the implementation of COA.
I believe the citizens of the basin should be encouraged by the ability of the parties to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and jurisdictions of each country to reach a consensus on their respective program areas to restore and maintain the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. I challenge all of us to seize this opportunity, particularly to renew our focus on and accelerate the cleanup of Areas of Concern. Thank you for making the Lakes Great.
Ninety percent reduction of hazardous waste inputs to the Niagara River achieved
Remedial actions on numerous hazardous waste sites taken by New York State and U.S. EPA have reduced potential inputs of this waste to the Niagara river by about 90 percent. This is one of many findings by the IJC in its recently released assessment of federal, state and provincial governments’ activities toward restoration of the Niagara River. The assessment notes successes and obstacles in the ongoing effort to restore and protect both sides of this international waterway under the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) process.
The status assessment evaluates ongoing remediation by the responsible governments and is not an environmental audit of current conditions of the Niagara River. Commissioners, the IJC’s Science Advisory Board and IJC staff met with local citizens, representatives of government agencies, industries, local municipalities, nongovernmental organizations and the media to collect information during the assessment.
The report is available on the Internet at http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/html/niagstat.html.
Twenty-four years of Great Lakes research now available on the Internet
In an effort to better inform public policy with sound science, the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) has converted 24 years of the hard copy archive of its Journal of Great Lakes Research to electronic format and made it easily accessible via a searchable database on its website. This is a multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed collection of papers from various scientific, management and policy perspectives on the Great Lakes.
IAGLR believes that timely access to this scientific information will strengthen the science-policy linkage in the Great Lakes basin and promote better management of Great Lakes. The Journal can be found on-line at
Low water levels spark concern in the St. Croix River basin
From its headwater tributary, Monument Brook, to its tidal estuary in Passamaquoddy Bay, the 180 kilometer (110 mile) long St. Croix River is an international waterway that forms part of the boundary between the province of New Brunswick and the state of Maine. The St. Croix River supports the economy of the region and the lifestyle of both its urban and rural residents. One of the most important summer activities in this area is recreation fishing, canoeing, cottages and camps in the area are dependant on adequate water levels and flows in the river.
During the summer and fall of 2001 and into the early part of 2002, residents of both Canada and the United States living near lakes and rivers in the upper reaches of the basin were greatly concerned over low water levels. The low levels were largely due to an extended three-year drought. The effects of the drought were particularly noticeable in the shallow upper lakes of the St. Croix system where drawdowns exposed large areas and threatened bass habitat and salmon breeding beds. Residents expressed their concerns to government authorities, Domtar, the owner and operator of the dams in the area, and to the International Joint Commission. However, without rain, very little could be done.
Fortunately, recent spring rains have allowed surface water conditions in the streams, lakes and reservoirs to begin to approach more normal conditions. East Grand and Spednic lakes, where the effects of the drought had been most evident, were near 80 percent full by mid-May. However, a return to the dry hot weather could bring back water supply problems that the St. Croix waterway recently experienced.
The IJC has certain regulatory responsibilities for the dams at Forest City, Vanceboro, Grand Falls and Milltown. When it approved the construction of these dams, the IJC set both outflow and reservoir level requirements aimed at meeting the needs of upstream and downstream users as well flood prevention. The IJC’s International St. Croix River Board monitors the operation of the dams to ensure that the conditions set by the IJC are met and to provide advice when high or low water make it difficult to meet these operating conditions. If water supplies are greater than or less than the supplies of the past, the dams at Forest City and Vanceboro are to be operated to provide all possible relief on East Grand and Spednic lakes and downstream and to provide levels and flows no more extreme than would have occurred if the works had not been built.
Citizens of the St. Croix River region will have an opportunity to discuss their concerns over drought and low levels when the St. Croix Board holds its annual public meeting in August, and later in November when the board plans to convene a workshop to address a wide range of issues related to the St. Croix River basin. Details of these events will be advertised locally and on the
IJC welcomes the recent appointments to its boards.