Success of Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study
depends on public involvement
by Commissioners Irene Brooks and Robert Gourd
The IJC is entering the fourth year of its five-year, $20 million (USD) study to review its orders of approval for regulating water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The orders provide the requirements that must be met in setting the outflows from Lake Ontario through the hydro-electric power project in the international section of the St. Lawrence River. Since the orders are more than 50 years old, they do not address the needs of all current uses of the system, such as recreation and the environment, or potential climate change scenarios.
This is a massive effort - a study board is leading approximately 120 experts and members of a wide range of interest groups to ensure that all aspects of the system affected by water levels and flows are taken into account. Technical working groups are focusing on coastal processes, commercial navigation, water uses, environment and wetlands, hydroelectric power and recreational boating and tourism. A Plan Formulation and Evaluation Group has begun connecting the research of these six groups, uniformly and mathematically, in a shared vision model to formulate new water level and flow regulation plans.
Public consultation and stakeholder support will be a central factor in completing the study, as well as in choosing and implementing the optimal approach to water level and flow regulation. A Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) has been formed to track public concerns and relate study progress to the public. This summer the PIAG will hold an intensive round of public consultations to ensure that the methodologies currently being developed in the study take all basin interests into account.
The study board has made extensive efforts to address the scope of issues, data collection, modeling and analysis, public engagement and careful stewardship of natural resources. This study can serve as a model for similar studies the IJC might undertake in the future, such as a possible upper Great Lakes study.
The active participation by those impacted by the system is a key factor in the success of the study. If you have an interest in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system, we urge you to become engaged. Visit the study's website, www.losl.org, become informed, subscribe to the quarterly newsletter and identify opportunities to participate in public meetings.
Everything is Connected
by Dr. Gail Krantzberg,
Great Lakes Regional Office Director
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do."
- Edward Everett Hale
A recent article by Chivian and Bernstein in Environmental Health Perspectives (Volume 112, Number 1) demonstrates once again how intertwined are the concepts of biological, chemical and physical integrity of an ecosystem. They are so intertwined that although it is convenient, many Great Lakes features (or stressors) simply cannot be assigned to any one category.
Chivian and Bernstein discuss how biodiversity losses can impact human health, linkages that are generally ignored. These include losing species that could be sources of medicines and biomedical knowledge, increasing the prevalence of human infectious diseases and compromising the life-sustaining services provided by functional ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems consist of a diversity of species interacting with other species, as well as their physical and chemical environments. Threats to biodiversity, and to human health, can come through altering any of these interactions. Such alterations can arise due to climate change, chemical pollution, invasive alien species and degradation and destruction of habitats. The current focus of the IJC advisory boards on climate change, contaminants and aquatic invasive species is directed toward illuminating their threat to the integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.
In 2003, the IJC's Water Quality Board (http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/
html/climate/index.html) reported that a change in climate could lead to alterations and impacts on environmental quality (air, water, soil, sediment), surface and ground water quantity, ecosystem health and functioning, human health, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The potential effects on biodiversity and subsequently, human systems, implore program and policy ingenuity.
The Water Quality Board points out that a changing climate may exacerbate other stressors on the Great Lakes. Consider, for example, the impact of land use changes on natural ecosystems and species diversity. Factor in climate change as an additional stress, and the resiliency of the ecosystem and its capacity to adapt may be further challenged.
Changes in land use that accompany the trend toward greater urbanization are producing profound negative effects on local ecosystems and, by corollary, on biodiversity, throughout the basin (http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/
html/pr9901.html). The Great Lakes Regional Office continues to support our boards as they examine land use issues and solutions. Inappropriate land use can become an irresistible pressure impeding progress toward the goal of Great Lakes ecosystem integrity.
Learn more and be heard. People of the basin must convey to policy makers the important relationship between biodiversity and human health in order to incite pioneering, affirmative change and make our Lakes Great.
Greater cooperation needed
on transboundary air quality
Two recent reports by the IJC's International Air Quality Advisory Board emphasize the need for greater cooperation and collaboration across the international boundary to improve transboundary air quality.
The first, Summary of Critical Air Issues in the Transboundary Region, released in January, offers recommendations to further enhance cooperative efforts by Canada and the United States to protect transboundary air quality. The report calls for a scientific assessment of the current state of knowledge and gaps in our understanding of persistent toxic substances. Areas of particular importance include: rising mercury levels in some fish-eating birds and mammals; the role of urban centres as major emission sources of these substances; and the widespread presence of pesticides and other persistent organic pollutants not being addressed by current agreements and international arrangements. The pivotal role that control of nitrogen compounds plays in reducing acidification and in the formation of ozone and fine particulate matter is highlighted and recommendations are made for more coordinated and aggressive approaches to controlling these compounds. The global nature of mercury emissions and how North American reductions are being offset by increased Asian contributions is also discussed.
The report also calls for improvements to air quality forecasts, real-time air quality reporting and other tools that provide the public with information needed to make informed choices about protecting their health and the environment. More collaborative and coordinated approaches to managing and integrating emissions inventory development, monitoring programs and analysis, including modeling, are essential for evaluating progress and designing new pollution control programs.
The second report, Air Quality in Selected Binational Great Lakes Urban Regions, released in February, examines ambient concentrations of ozone, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and selected hazardous air pollutants in the Detroit-Windsor, Port Huron-Sarnia and Sault Ste. Marie regions. The analysis shows that levels of smog (ozone and fine particulates) in all three locales continue to compromise human health, particularly among sensitive populations - asthmatics, the young and the elderly. The report points out the substantial contribution of regional pollutant transport to smog though local mobile, stationary point and area sources. Significant reductions in all of these sources appear to be necessary if local air quality is to become consistently acceptable. The board concludes that emissions of many of the hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) considered by the IJC in its 1992 review of air quality in the Detroit-Windsor/Port Huron Sarnia region appear to be lower; but trichloroethylene and xylene compounds remain at or above levels estimated in the earlier report. There is also evidence that particular HAPs occur at levels in excess of those associated with the one-in-one-million lifetime cancer risk benchmark in the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Both reports are available online at www.ijc.org.
IJC adds local members to Rainy Lake Board
The IJC has added two members to its International Rainy Lake Board of Control to give a stronger voice to local communities within the basin and allow them to participate directly in the work of the board.
Steven M. Richardson of Devlin, Ontario has served as a firefighter for 21 years. As Chief of the Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service, he has been instrumental in resolving labor relations issues, reinvigorating prevention and public education programs and coordinating activities with the fire and emergency management service in International Falls, Minnesota.
Leland H. Grim of International Falls, Minnesota taught science at Rainy River Junior College for 33 years and worked as a seasonal employee in Voyagers National Park for 31 summers.
The board ensures that the regulation of water levels of Rainy and Namakan Lakes follows the requirements issued by the IJC. The IJC also monitors water quality in the Rainy River, including compliance with water quality objectives approved by the governments.
David Ullrich served as U.S. co-chair of the IJC Great Lakes Water Quality Board from 1997 to June 2003. He undertook his responsibilities to restore and protect the Great Lakes environment with vigor, distinction and leadership. Dave took particular interest in stopping the introduction of alien invasive species and restoring the Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
Dave recently retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) after 30 years of service. During his tenure, he served as chief of air enforcement, deputy regional counsel, director of the Waste Management Division, deputy regional administrator and acting regional administrator. Dave served on numerous national task forces to increase the effectiveness of U.S. EPA’s management and environmental problem-solving approaches. He received numerous awards, including the Presidential Rank Award for meritorious service, three gold medals for exceptional service and several bronze medals.
Dave continues his commitment to environmental restoration and protection. In July 2003, he became the Director of the Great Lakes Cities Initiative, headquartered in Chicago. He was recently reappointed as a member to the IJC's Great Lakes Water Quality Board in this capacity.
IJC welcomes recent appointments to its boards and expresses our gratitude to those who contributed their time and talent to assist Canada and the United States with managing transboundary environmental issues.
Great Lakes Water Quality Board
We Welcome :
David Ullrich, Great Lakes Cities Initiative
Great Lakes Science Advisory Board
Bruce Krushelnicki, Ontario Municipal Board
University of Québec
Lesbia Smith, M.D., Toronto, Ontario
International Rainy Lake Board of Control
Lee Grim, Biologist
Steven M. Richardson
Ontario Fire Coordinator for the District of Rainy River
International St. Croix River Board
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Thomas L. Koning,
US Army Corps of Engineers,
New England District
Acting U.S. Co-chair
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
New England District
- temporary appointment to the ISCRB
while Col. Koning is serving in Iraq
Don Porteous, U.S. Co-chair
Hot off the press
New! Summary of Critical Air Quality Issues in the Transboundary Region. A report of the International Air Quality Advisory Board highlighting a number of significant transboundary air quality issues facing Canada and the United States. Available at www.ijc.org or from the Great Lakes Regional Office.
New! Air Quality in Selected Binational Great Lakes Urban Regions. A report of the International Air Quality Advisory Board highlighting Detroit/Windsor; Port Huron/Sarnia; and the Sault Ste. Maries. Available at www.ijc.org or from the Great Lakes Regional Office.
New! 2003 Biennial Meeting. Transcripts from Saturday, September 20, now available at http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/
Focus goes electronic
This will be the last regular issue of Focus.
Because more people are getting their information from the Internet, and we wish to use less paper, the IJC's Focus newsletter will be found primarily on the IJC website.
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