Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board workshops evaluate plans
Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Co-directors Doug Cuthbert and Dr. Eugene Stakhiv officially present the Year Three Report of the Study Board to IJC Chair Herb Gray and Commissioner Irene Brooks.
Key experts and stakeholders gathered in four locations between December 9, 2004 and January 6, 2005 to critique and tweak plans created by some of the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board's experts in the field of plan formulation - and possibly even to propose plans of their own. The Study is entering a crucial phase where the data are now assembled and the shared vision model (SVM) is generating outcomes based on different plans for potential new orders of approval. The Study Board is committed to transparent, science-driven decision-making and is considering all interests.
Using "the Boardroom", an interactive planning tool that produces information on the outcomes of the various proposed plans from the shared vision model, Plan Formulation Evaluation Group U.S. and Canadian co-leads Bill Werick and Wendy Leger lead one-day sessions that dug deep into the data and assumptions of the various plans.
The workshops were held on December 9 in Syracuse, December 14 in Montreal, January 4 in Brockville and January 6 in Burlington. Participants from both sides of the border joined plan formulators in hands-on demonstrations of the benefits and challenges that the Study faces in creating new orders of approval.
Werick and Leger said that these sessions provide everyone with much to think about. "We've got a lot of variables," says Leger. "You could look at the system in different ways to come up with a plan that is in the broad public interest. So finding out how people view the various interests as users and stewards of the lake and river is going to help us narrow our focus to plans that can be implemented practically and successfully."
Werick said that looking at people's suggestions and objections to various plans is a major component of keeping the Study's work transparent. "We're hoping that some good debate is generated about what makes a good plan and how these plans fit the bill," Werick said. "I'm hoping that out of this we will be able to say that we will have a better idea how specific interests perceive specific plans. We can perhaps even model how, let's say, an environmentalist from the Montreal area would see the plans and likewise for a cottage owner on the southwest shore of Lake Ontario."
The interests identified by the Study and studied systematically for impacts are coastal properties; commercial navigation; domestic, industrial, and municipal water uses; environment/wetlands; hydroelectric power; and recreational boating and tourism. A key study team guideline is the principle that, overall, interests will achieve a net benefit and there will be no proportionate loss to any one group. The guidelines also include a provision for possible mitigation of losses, as necessary.
Just Confirmed! Dr. David Schindler to speak at the 2005 Biennial Meeting in Kingston
Dr. David Schindler
Dr. David Schindler to speak at the 2005 Biennial Meeting in Kingston Dr. Schindler is described by some as the "world's greatest living freshwater ecologist." As a Professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta, he specializes in land-water interactions. He has studied the effects of climate warming, alien fish stocks, airborne contaminants and other human impacts on freshwaters of northern and western Canada as founder and former director of the Experimental Lakes Project of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which conducted interdisciplinary research on the effects of eutrophication, acid rain, radioactive elements and climate change on boreal ecosystems. His work has been widely used in formulating ecologically sound management policy in Canada, the United States and in Europe. Dr. Schindler has received numerous national and international research awards, including Canada's highest scientific honor, the NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal for Science and Engineering in 2001.
Join the IJC at its 2005 Biennial Meeting in Kingston to hear Keynote Speaker Dr. David Schindler on Thursday, June 9
IJC releases task force report on Missisquoi Bay
Missisquoi Bay, on Lake Champlain, is shared by Vermont and Quebec. It is a popular vacation area in the region and the water is used to support recreation and tourism as well as drinking water and agriculture.
The Swanton-Alburg Route 78 bridge, built in 1937, is located at the southern end of the bay and crosses the waters connecting Missisquoi Bay to Lake Champlain. In May 2004, the federal governments of Canada and the U.S. asked the IJC to review plans by the state of Vermont to modernize this bridge involving the partial removal of the existing causeway. The IJC is to provide advice on whether plans comply with Article IV of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. Article IV states, in part, that "boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other."
The bridge has long been considered, by the area residents, as one possible cause of the deterioration of water quality in the bay, thus contributing to the economic and tourism decline on both Vermont and Quebec in this area. Many citizens believe that the bridge restricts the flushing of water from the bay to the lake.
In June, the IJC appointed an International Missisquoi Bay Task Force, with members from the two federal governments, Vermont and Quebec, to review the plans and the issue. TheTask Force reported to the IJC in October.
In its report, the Task Force states that there are few data relative to the condition of Missisquoi Bay before the construction of the bridge and there is no conclusive way, other than by modeling, to determine the potential adverse effects of the construction or the presence of the bridge on the bay. A potential cause of the observed degradation is increased nutrient and sediment loading into the bay from rivers and runoff.
Following public hearings and written comments from the public, the IJC will prepare its final report to the governments of the United States and Canada on this issue.
More information, including the full text of the International Missisquoi Bay Task Force Report, may be found on the Commission's web site, at http://www.ijc.org/rel/news/041109_e.htm.
Spilling out leadership
by Dr. Gail Krantzberg, Great Lakes Regional Office Director
The IJC is privileged to have world class, expert scientific and policy leaders involved on our Great Lakes advisory boards and council. We are indebted to many organizations for so generously providing to us exceptional volunteers of international repute.
Case in point.
In its 12th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, the IJC observed that during the last two years, major spills in the connecting channels from Lake Huron to Lake Erie, particularly the St. Clair River, have increased. In April 2002, a very large oil spill in the Rouge River, flowing into the Detroit River, which connects lakes St. Clair and Erie, required the first full implementation of the joint Canada - U.S. Coast Guard response system. In August of 2003, a major regional power blackout led to not only several overflows from wastewater treatment plants, but also an unacceptable delay in the reporting of a vinyl chloride spill in Sarnia, Ontario. Water treatment plant operators downstream are concerned about the frequency with which they have been closing their water intakes, and the public is concerned about the safety of its drinking water.
On April 19, 2004, Ontario Minister of Environment Leona Dombrowsky announced the formation of an eight-member Industrial Pollution Action Team (IPAT) in Canada. The mandate of IPAT was summarized to "examine the causes of industrial spills and dangerous air emissions and recommend to the Canadian government prevention measures for industry and others."
The Co-chair of IPAT and principal author of their report was Dr. Isobel Heathcote, Canadian chair of the IJC's Great Lakes Science Advisory Board. Upon receipt of the IPAT report, Minister Dombrowsky, stated that, "through Dr. Heathcote's leadership, the fulsome report delivered to the province of Ontario exceeded our expectations."
Dr. Isobel Heathcote
The IJC is enormously thankful to the dozens of leaders, our board and council members, who provide the Great Lakes Regional Office and the IJC explicit, rigorous, and judicious advice. For those of you who know and work with her, please join us in this special recognition for one of the IJC's top scientific advisors, Dr. Heathcote. She exemplifies the wealth of expertise the IJC has come to appreciate and rely upon in the delivery of our advice to governments. Our Board and Council members are a collection of outstanding professionals.
We are proud that the IJC can benefit from the leaders that distinguish our IJC family. It is only with such scientific and policy excellence, that we can hope to achieve our mission to make the Lakes Great.
IJC seeks your comments on 2004 Air Quality Progress Report
You are invited to provide comments to the IJC on the recently released 2004 Progress Report of the governments on activities under the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement.
In response to long-standing concerns over acid rain and other transboundary air pollution issues, the governments of the United States and Canada signed an Air Quality Agreement in 1991. Since that time, the governments have worked to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, improve emission monitoring, share scientific information and address their other cooperative commitments under the Agreement. The governments issue a progress report every two years.
The governments' 2004 Progress Report indicates that the Air Quality Committee took into account public comments received through the IJC's comment process on the 2002 Progress Report. The current report highlights actions taken over the past two years to meet ozone and acid rain commitments and discusses key scientific and technical trends related to air pollution. The report concludes that both the United States and Canada have continued to fulfill their obligations set forth in the Agreement and that human health and the environment have benefited greatly from the progress made. It indicates that transboundary particulate matter transport has become an issue of interest and the conclusions of a joint scientific report on this topic are summarized in the Progress Report.
The report is available online at http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/usca/2004report.html or http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/can_us/2004CanUs/intro_e.html. Article IX of the 1991 Agreement directs the International Joint Commission to invite public comment on each progress report, prepare a synthesis of the comments received, and release the synthesis to the public after submitting it to the two governments. Please send your comments by February 28, 2005 to the Secretary at the IJC's U.S. or Canadian sections at the addresses provided in this issue of Focus.
Then and Now: Update on AIS in the Great Lakes
In 1988, both the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the IJC alerted the governments of the United States and Canada that aquatic alien invasive species (AIS) in ballast water posed a significant threat to the Great Lakes. The two commissions urged the nations' Coast Guards to take immediate steps to end the ongoing introduction of exotic organisms via ballast water discharge.
At the same time, the two commissions recognized the limited understanding of how AIS become established in new environments, and how this lack of knowledge hindered both countries' abilities to develop a fully effective and comprehensive strategy to address the threat. While it was recognized that new and continuing investigations of all sources of AIS to the Great Lakes and prevention strategies were needed, the most immediate concern was the introduction of AIS from ballast water discharge.
This boater on the Illinois River came prepared for Asian Carp - when startled by passing motor boats the fish often jump dramatic distances out of the water. (Credit: Lloyd DeGrane)
Fourteen years have passed since the commissioners published this initial report. While much has been accomplished to curtail AIS introductions from ship ballast water during this time, introductions of AIS continue. It is now generally agreed that AIS pose the single greatest threat to the future of the resource; yet many aspects of this complex problem remain unaddressed. Since the mid-1980s, 17 new species have invaded the Great Lakes. Fifteen more have been identified as high risk for potential introduction, proving that neither our recommendations nor the responses to them were sufficient to protect the biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
In a new follow-up report, Then and Now, the IJC and Great Lakes Fishery Commission present a highly visual progress report and poster that provides bullet point information and a time line of events perfect for use in the class room or presentation. The resource provides information to stimulate further dialogue on how the U.S. and Canada can better meet the challenges ahead, not only to prevent new invasions from shipping activities, but also to eliminate newly-recognized threats from other sources such as AIS migration through canals, aquaculture escapement, intentional or accidental releases of bait and aquarium fish and live fish sold for human consumption.
Click on image to enlarge
Contact any IJC office for a copy.
Speech from the Throne commits Canadian federal government to Great Lakes program renewal and the IJC; Prime Minister and President recognize importance of Great Lakes
The recent Speech from the Throne, read by the Governor General of Canada, outlined the Canadian government's agenda for the upcoming session of Parliament and emphasized the importance of the environment as an international issue. The speech, which is similar to the U.S. State of the Union Address, stated said that the government "will continue to pursue multilateral and bilateral approaches to what are ultimately global challenges," and committed to work with the United States and through the International Joint Commission to meet these challenges.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa (Credit: Library of Parliament)
Herb Gray, IJC Canadian co-chair responded, "The government has made a historic commitment to international cooperation on international and global environmental issues. The future of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River now are a major part of this government's agenda. The Commission is prepared and uniquely equipped to help the government find solutions to the environmental challenges that we face."
The Speech directed that, "[the Government] will work with the United States and agencies like the International Joint Commission on issues such as clean air, clean water and invasive species. In 2005, the Government will bring forward the next generation of its Great Lakes and St. Lawrence programs, underscoring its commitment to protect and preserve these internationally significant shared ecosystems."
The priority of the Great Lakes was subsequently reflected in a joint statement on November 30, 2004, by both Prime Minister Martin and President Bush and reiterated this point by saying, "Our aim is to improve the quality of life of our citizens by among other things: building our joint efforts to achieve clean air and clean water, for example in the Great Lakes region."
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
Regional Director General, Ontario
interim U.S. co-chair
Director, Great Lakes National Program Office
Assistant Deputy Minister/
Chief Drinking Water Inspector
Drinking Water Management Division
Ontario Ministry of Environment
John Mills, Canadian co-chair
Tom Skinner, U.S. co-chair
Council of Great Lakes Research
Director, Large Lakes Observatory
University of Minnesota at Duluth
International Niagara Board of Control
Acting Director, Lands and Water Branch
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
David de Launay
International Kootenay Lake Board of Control
International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control
Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights, Land and Water
British Columbia, Inc.
James S. Mattison
International St. Croix River Board
Director, The Environment and
Sustainable Development Research Centre
University of New Brunswick
The IJC welcomes:
Scudder Mackay of Habitat Solutions and formerly of the Great Lakes Protection Fund and Ohio Geological Survey, has been contracted by the Great Lakes Regional Office to prepare a white paper on physical integrity of the Great Lakes. Dr. Mackay's report will provide information to assist the Great Lakes Water Quality Board in developing its advice to the IJC on the review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
Joel Weiner, former member of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, has joined the staff of the Canadian Section Office of the IJC on secondment from Health Canada for five years. In his new role as senior advisor, he will be serving the Commission in a variety of functions, primarily related to the Great Lakes.
Hot off the press
- Then and Now. New from the IJC and Great Lakes Fishery Commission. This joint progress report looks at progress and future needs regarding Aquatic Alien Species and the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Ecosystem. This is a follow-up to their joint "Exotic Species and the Shipping Industry: The Great lakes - St. Lawrence Ecosystem at Risk," September 1990. This highly visual report is a poster with valuable information and timeline that is great for presentations and classrooms!
- Twelfth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality. In this report to the governments of the U.S. and Canada, the IJC highlights key issues for all who live in the Great Lakes region, and makes specific recommendations relating to the effects of urbanization on our lakes; threats associated with alien aquatic invasive species; pathogens and disease bearing microorganisms in drinking water sources; chemical contamination, methyl mercury and human health; and the recent ecological changestaking place in Lake Erie.
- 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.
- Stay in the loop! The fastest way to receive updates about new IJC reports and to receive IJC's FOCUS newsletter is by email. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.