The International Watersheds Initiative -
Everyone is a Winner
Jack Blaney and Allen Olson
In its 1997 report, The IJC and the 21st Century, the IJC recommended establishing more comprehensive IJC international watershed boards to respond to transboundary water-related and other environmental challenges foreseen for the 21st Century. This sound recommendation was intended to broaden the scope of information upon which decisions are based in preventing and resolving transboundary water and air disputes between the U.S. and Canada.
While the IJC has experienced difficulty advancing this with some key potential partners, the watershed approach continues to have promise. The IJC continues consulting with its boards and potential partners in several watersheds to advance this initiative. In April of this year, the IJC refined the concept and adopted a list of guiding principles. The principles build on the established IJC practice of providing governments with impartial, independent and objective advice. This approach recognizes that organizations within watersheds are interdependent.
Many have unique monitoring, coordination or management responsibilities, but no organization currently has a comprehensive transboundary watershed management mandate. It is clearly beneficial for organizations to work together in partnerships, while maintaining responsibility for their specific mandates to get the most out of available dollars in an era of limited resources. To better reflect the need to involve all interests, and to work with other watershed organizations more effectively, the IJC now refers to this effort as the "international watersheds initiative."
A primary objective is for IJC boards to perform their responsibilities more inclusively and to encourage cooperation on issues before they become cross-border disputes. As a major partner in this watersheds initiative, the IJC will, through it boards, continue to pursue the transboundary mandates assigned to it by the two governments. By broadening their outreach and cooperation with other watershed organizations, IJC boards will be better able to advise the IJC and assist in building local capacity to address current and emerging issues with the cooperation, partnership and inclusion necessary for success.
Did It Work?
by Dr. Gail Krantzberg,
Great Lakes Regional Office Director
When investing in the stock market, most people track their stock's performance to know whether they are managing their money to its best advantage. So why is it, when we invest in environmental improvements, we rarely track performance to see whether the dollars we have spent have had the anticipated environmental benefits?
Consider mud. We know that all 41 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin have contaminated sediment based on the application of chemical guidelines. In addition, there is consensus among government, industry, non-governmental organizations and RAP groups that contaminated sediment is a substantial and chronic source of environmental degradation, and a key impediment to restoring many of the 14 beneficial uses identified in Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
In the majority of cases where sediment remediation has been undertaken, no effort has been placed on monitoring, measuring and assessing ecological recovery and the restoration of beneficial uses consistent with Annex 2. Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested, and with a few exceptions, we don't look back. Did it work? Since monitoring has been seriously lacking, it has been difficult to evaluate the overall success of sediment remediation; reasonably transfer lessons learned; determine what things are still essential to know; achieve cost-effective and crucial ecological improvements; and estimate the economic, health and social benefits of ecological improvements.
Monitoring is not a luxury - it is a means of being accountable for our actions. It is a means for adapting and advancing our approaches for future successes.
In 1999, the Sediment Priority Action Committee (SedPAC) under the IJC's Water Quality Board, had an interesting thought. They realized, and it stands to reason, that state, provincial and federal regulatory agencies, which make sediment remediation part of environmentally-based settlements and cooperative agreements, should require specific commitments and resources for post-project monitoring of its effectiveness. In its Tenth Biennial Report, the IJC sited the SedPAC recommendation for monitoring to enhance recovery forecasting and benefit measurement. It is now time to place a high priority on monitoring ecological benefits and beneficial use restoration in all circumstances associated with sediment remediation.
Let's learn from our experiments. Let's learn from our investments. Indeed, let's learn how to make the Lakes Great!
IJC launches on-line discussion of the upcoming review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
What do you think about the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement? Does it need to be updated? Is the scope of the agreement still as sound in 2004 as it was in 1978? What should be the region's vision for the future of the lakes? These are questions the governments of the United States and Canada will face this year as they begin to review the effectiveness of this historic agreement- the IJC is interested in your views and looking for your input.
Article X of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement directs the governments to review of the operation and effectiveness of this historic agreement following every third IJC biennial report. The 12th Biennial Report, to be released in 2004, triggers this review. As stated in its September 20, 2003 public declaration, the IJC has pledged to assist the governments and engage and facilitate public participation in the review.
To participate, visit the IJC's Internet bulletin board at www.ijc.org and take part in the basinwide discussion of the issues early in the review process. Questions lead off each discussion area to help conversation begin, but your are encouraged to log on and respond to other's thoughts or comment on agreement issues that are important to you.
2005 IJC Biennial Meeting -
Save the date and join us in Kingston, June 2005!
Although it seems we've just concluded the last IJC Biennial Meeting, it's time to mark your calendars for the meeting in 2005! A big change in 2005 is that the meeting will be held in June - from June 9th through the 11th to be exact - and to better coincide with the upcoming government review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The location will be Queen's University, in the historic city of Kingston, Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario.
We need you!
As in past years, this meeting will be an opportunity for citizens in the Great Lakes basin to meet with the Commission and others involved in Great Lakes water quality initiatives to discuss progress and, most importantly, the review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. It has never been a more important time in the history of the agreement or biennial meetings to come together in one forum for this important purpose.
And what better place than Kingston!
Kingston is the location of the historic 1985 IJC Biennial Meeting, which lead to many of the changes that were incorporated into 1987 protocol of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Exactly 20 years later we are at a similar place in time, and the input and involvement from the public is more crucial now than ever. The Biennial Meeting is truly a forum for the Great Lakes and the people who care about the future of our majestic waters. Throughout their rich history, IJC Biennial Meetings have educated and energized the Great Lakes basin community to work together to carry out the purpose of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Credits: Kingston Chamber of Commerce
This meeting is a much anticipated gathering of people and ideas and an opportunity to come together and celebrate progress, assess and question current action, discuss new and emerging Great Lakes issues, and share strategies toward securing the environmental health of the Great Lakes. So, mark your calendars, save the date and meet us in June in Kingston. Look for further updates and registration details on the IJC website and in upcoming issues of Focus.
IRRB looks at nutrient objectives
for the Red River
The IJC's International Red River Board (IRRB) has been asked to examine the setting of nutrient objectives at the international boundary in order to protect Lake Winnipeg. Since 1969, the IJC has monitored this area in keeping with five specific water quality objectives: fecal coliform, chloride, sulphate, total dissolved solids and dissolved oxygen. In addition, it reports against a number of water quality alert levels for a broader range of parameters and monitors the state of transboundary ecosystem health.
While significant improvements have been made in water quality through municipal and industrial waste treatment and implementation of agricultural best management practices, there continue to be transboundary water quality issues. The Red River contributes a significant loading of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) to Lake Winnipeg. In February 2003, Manitoba announced the Lake Winnipeg Action Plan, which includes a commitment to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the lake to pre-1970 levels. The province requested the assistance of the IRRB to set water quality objectives for these nutrients at the international boundary.
The IRRB has initiated discussions with appropriate specialists on both sides of the boundary and partnered in a workshop on the issue in April 2004. From initial discussions, there is some consensus that traditional water quality data at the border may not be the best approach to address this issue. Efforts should be made to characterize loading rates from various stream reaches and other sources enabling the development of a basinwide strategy. More information about the IRRB can be found on the web at International Red River Board.
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 :
Jim Smith, Assistant Deputy Minister, Drinking Water Management Division Ontario Ministry of the Environment
International St. Croix River Board
Carol Wood, Acting Director, Office of Environmental Measurement and Evaluation, U.S. EPA, Region 1
International Red River Board
Chief, Ecological Sciences Division
Canadian Wildlife Service
Long time, valued IJC board member, Bill Gummer was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the IJC in April in recognition of 30 years of service and dedication to the work of the International Joint Commission. Bill has taken on new and expanded responsibilities at Environment Canada as the Regional Director, Environmental Conservation Branch, Prairie and Northern Region. Bill provided scientific and technical support to the Commission's boards from 1974 to 1984; served as Canadian Co-chair of the International Red River Pollution Board from 1984 to 2001; and as a member of the International Red River Board until this past March.
His organizational skills, scientific and policy expertise, and knowledge of water management and environmental issues have been of great value to the IJC in addressing transboundary concerns and in furthering the spirit of cooperation between the United States and Canada. The commissioners and staff give their sincere appreciation for the support Bill has provided as a member of the Commission's family and we wish him well in his future endeavors.
Dr. Marty Bratzel
Marty Bratzel and son Gary at the Kingston Biennial Meeting of 1985
Following a career dedicated to and indeed spanning the life of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Great Lakes regional office scientist, Dr. Marty Bratzel will retire from public service after serving the IJC and its Great Lakes advisory boards for 31 years.
Marty has worked in the Great Lakes Regional Office since its opening in 1973 and spent virtually his entire career dedicated to the Great Lakes and the implementation of the agreement. Trained as a chemist, he has been involved with the work of the IJC considerably beyond this vocation, doing whatever was needed to assist the Commission, office and advisory boards. Throughout his tenure, he worked in every aspect of the office, primarily with the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, but also with the Science Advisory Board, administration, and information services. He is an excellent writer and synthesizer of technical material, and his anonymous mark and style are on many well recognized and high quality board, committee and Commission reports, including the Sixth through the Ninth Biennial Reports on Great Lakes Water Quality. He is well respected by his colleagues inside the IJC and beyond.
His organizational skills and historical memory of institutional knowledge and conditions and changes throughout the Great Lakes over three decades are unsurpassed and will be greatly missed. The IJC thanks Marty for all his years of dedicated service to the Commission.
Contact an IJC office or visit the individual board website at http://www.ijc.org/en/boards/boards_conseils.htm
boards_conseils.htm for specific times and places of the following public meetings.
June 21, 2004
International Lake Superior Board of Control public meeting and multi-city teleconference. The meeting will provide information on the operations of the board; current and forecasted water levels and conditions; and, increase public input about local conditions and impacts of concern related to water levels and flows in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron, and Georgian Bay. The public meetings will be located simultaneously in Duluth, Minnesota; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; and Parry Sound, Ontario. The four meetings will be connected by teleconference.
July 21, 2004
International St. Lawrence River Board of Control public meeting, Sackets Harbor, New York
International Red River Board public meeting, Devils Lake, North Dakota
July 26-30, 2004
Public consultation meetings regarding the St. Mary and Milk rivers Location to be determined.
August, 17, 2004
International St. Croix River Board Public Meeting Location to be determined.
International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board public outreach meetings:
Akwesasne, Cornwall Island, Ontario
Grimbsy, Ontario and Massena, New York
Toronto and Alexandria Bay, Ontario
Belleville, Ontario and Sackets Harbor, New York
Gananoque, Ontario and Oswego, New York
Cornwall and Sodus Bay, Ontario
Montreal, Quebec and Greece, New York
Sorel, Quebec and Olcott, New York
Hot off the press
Preventing a Hostile Takeover: Asian Carp in the Great Lakes is a new six-minute video produced by the IJC and Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Scenes of the Illinois River portray the spread of silver and bighead carp, while experts describe the threat these species pose to the Great Lakes. Available on CD-ROM and DVD formats from any IJC office.
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.
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.
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Focus on the Web
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