International Joint Commission
Spring 2007
Volume 32, Issue 1

Attend 2007 Great Lakes Biennial Meeting and explore what cities can do to improve water quality

IThe International Joint Commission invites you to attend its 2007 Great Lakes Biennial Meeting and Conference June 6- 8, 2007 on the campus of the University of Illinois in Chicago. The event provides you with opportunities to learn about cutting-edge scientific and policy initiatives, to discuss your views on Great Lakes water quality and to interact with scientists, policy makers and other engaged stakeholders from across the basin.

Flowing from the theme of "Sustainable Cities, Healthy Watersheds," several sessions will investigate the connection between current challenges, best urban practices and the health of the Great Lakes, including:

  • Effective Urban Policy: Lessons for Sustainable Cities;
  • Green Building and Sustainable Development: Measuring Success;
  • Protecting and Enhancing Human Health in our Urban Environments;
  • Deteriorating Sewer and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure: A Challenge to Sustainability?
  • Remedial Action Plans and Lakewide Management Plans: Industrial and Municipal Contributions to Restoration;
  • Can invasive carp be stopped? Status of the Electric Fish Barrier; and
  • Sustainable Management of Groundwater Resources: Supply, Demand and Aquifer Protection.

Special opportunities for public involvement will include a Great Lakes Town Hall Meeting and a session on the current review of Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. One new feature this year will be an interactive stakeholder forum called "Municipalities Matter" that will focus on strategies for action at the municipal and regional levels. In addition, the Commission will present the 2007 Biennial Award for Great Lakes Science to honor a scientist who contributed to the improvement of the Great Lakes in an outstanding manner.

Full details, including registration, hotel and other travel information, can be found on the IJC web site at

We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!

IJC recommends accountability framework for Great Lakes water quality

While previous biennial reports covered multiple topics, the IJC chose to focus its 13th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality on a single theme: accountability for protecting, restoring and maintaining Great Lakes water quality.

"The time has come to make bold binational commitments and to accelerate actions to restore and protect our lakes," said the Commissioners in their 13th Biennial Report. "Central to all such commitments and actions, and to achieving the objectives of the United States and Canadian governments’ Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, is an accountability framework that is clear, potent and workable."

Establishing a framework for accountability requires the definition of commitments, roles and responsibilities for agreed-upon goals. The report recommends that the two federal governments implement a framework for Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement accountability and suggests a four-step process.

  1. Develop a rigorous plan: The governments should identify and prioritize the actions needed to realize the Agreement’s goals and specify who should be responsible for which actions and how they will coordinate their work.
  2. Monitor and assess: Accurate, comprehensive monitoring is required to evaluate progress and to provide a basis for reliable reporting that helps to inform and prioritize actions. A limited number of indicators should be used so that the monitoring for each can be adequately funded and indicators should be designed to contribute information about Agreement progress.
  3. Report: Without objective reporting of information useful to decision making, and a credible, independent review procedure to assess progress toward achieving stated objectives, the public has neither an accounting of specific progress toward identified goals, nor confidence that any reports tell the full story.
  4. Use reports to review and adjust plans: An important step toward achieving accountability is a fair and informed review of the results reported by involved partners.

For its part, the IJC commits to forming a task force to assist it in consulting with the governments on a practical and effective accountability framework as well as convening, in collaboration with governments and others, a Great Lakes accountability summit in the summer of 2008.

Copies of the 13th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality are available from an IJC office or on the website at:

Commissioners’ Corner

by Commissioner Jack Blaney

Al Olson and I really enjoyed our work as lead Commissioners on the 13th Biennial Report. Departing from the norm of advising the governments on an array of matters, this report focused on one core idea: that the governments should be more clearly accountable for achieving the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

All commissioners thought this departure was a good idea. We were used to reporting on how well or how poorly the governments were performing on their overall obligations, but we were often frustrated because the governments could not give us all the data we needed. As a consequence, we could not give the public a full picture of how well the Agreement’s objectives were actually being achieved. For many objectives, efforts to measure and monitor were spotty, often uncoordinated across the basin, or simply disbanded. We found that our frustration was shared by many officials inside, or recently out of government. And we all want to do better.

When Al and I went to the SOLEC meeting in Milwaukee, we both were surprised and pleased by the enthusiasm voiced for theme of the upcoming biennial report. And the mayor, Tom Barrett, gave us a perfect opening line: "With this great blessing comes a great responsibility."

Most importantly, this enthusiasm was shared by the residents of the Great Lakes basin. When we commissioners, almost two years ago, toured the basin seeking advice on the governments’ review of the Agreement, citizens told us – loud and clear – that the governments should be more accountable for progress on protecting and restoring the quality of their lakes’ water. They also told us that the governments should be commended for signing such a far-sighted pact in the first place and that they were pleased that it was being reviewed. Such grassroots comment assured us that we were on the right track with the 13th Biennial Report.

The basin residents really care about their lakes, as do the people in our governments. In different ways, we all have to be more accountable for our lakes. As my colleague, Al Olson says, "more responsible, too."

IJC deliberates on Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River regulation

The IJC is now weighing how the outflows from Lake Ontario in the international section of the St. Lawrence River should be regulated in the future based on the report of its International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board, approximately 400 public comments on the report and other considerations.

Regulation of water levels in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system affects a large number of interests including the environment, recreational boating, shoreline communities, navigation, hydropower production and municipal and industrial water users. The five-year study vastly improved the understanding of how these interests could be affected by different flow regimes through the international hydropower project at Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York, which was approved by the IJC in the 1950s.

The IJC is considering, but is not limited to the different proposals submitted by the Study Board. In addition, the IJC must reach a judgment on which actions would be consistent with its responsibilities under the Boundary Waters Treaty. The need for an adaptive management strategy to monitor impacts and provide a basis for future changes in regulation, as well as possible changes to the institutions that manage regulation are also being discussed. The IJC intends to release a proposed decision and hold public hearings this year. Copies of the Study Board final report are available from the IJC’s Washington and Ottawa offices, or online at

IJC appoints Upper Great Lakes Study Board

The IJC appointed a 10-member board in February to undertake its Upper Great Lakes Study. The five-year study seeks to determine whether the regulation of Lake Superior outflows can be improved to address the evolving needs of users on lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan and Erie.

The outflow from Lake Superior is regulated with works in the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The IJC approved the works in 1914 when hydroelectric power plants were developed at those locations.

The Upper Great Lakes Study will:

  • determine the factors that affect water levels and flows in the upper lakes;
  • develop new regulation plans and test their performance;
  • assess the impacts of these plans on the ecosystem and human interests; and
  • incorporate climate change scenarios into the analysis.

Physical changes in the St. Clair River will also be investigated early in the study as one factor that might be causing lower water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron, and affecting vulnerable areas such as eastern Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Depending on the nature and extent of the physical changes, and their potential impact on water levels and flows, the study may also explore potential remediation options.

The IJC will appoint a Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) to assist the study board with communication and outreach activities. The recently-appointed study board members are:

Canadian Section
Ted R. Yuzyk, co-chair, International Joint Commission, Ottawa, Ontario
James P. Bruce, PIAG co-chair, Ottawa, Ontario
Donald H. Burn
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
Allan Chow
Ministry of Natural Resources, Thunder Bay, Ontario
Jon H. Gee Sciences Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario

U.S. Section
Eugene Z. Stakhiv, co-chair, Institute for Water Resources, Alexandria, Virginia
Kay Felt, PIAG co-chair, Dykema Gossett PLLC, Detroit, Michigan
Richard C. Bishop, Madison, Wisconsin
James Bredin
Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Lansing, Michigan
John W. Bulkley
School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Back Row (left to right): Richard Bishop, Jonathan Bulkley, James Bredin, Jon Gee, Gene Stakhiv (U.S. co-chair). Front Row (left to right): Ted Yuzyk (Canadian co-chair), Allan Chow, Jim Bruce, Kay Felt. Missing from the photo is Donald Burn.
Photo credit: Syed Moin

International Red River Board watches for exotic species from Devils Lake

The IJC’s International Red River Board began a monitoring program in September 2006 to determine the presence and prevalence of fish parasites and pathogens in fish from Devils Lake, the Sheyenne River, Red River and Lake Winnipeg. The program aims to help assess the risks of the transfer of such parasites and pathogens from Devils Lake to these downstream aquatic ecosystems.

Devils Lake, which lies in a closed basin in North Dakota, has caused significant flooding in recent years. In response, North Dakota built an outlet that connects Devils Lake with the Hudson Bay drainage system. There is significant public concern that the outlet could transfer fish parasites and pathogens into the Hudson Bay watershed and harm fish populations, especially commercial and sport fish populations in the Red River and in Lake Winnipeg. In August 2005, the outlet began operations for a short period.

Devils Lake

Negotiations among Canadian and U.S. federal, state and provincial authorities, including the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in 2005 resulted in the installation of a temporary gravel filter at the outlet to act as a barrier against the transfer of fish and some plants into the Red River system. The barrier would not protect against viruses and other foreign organisms smaller than about two millimeters in diameter.

As a result of these negotiations, oversight for post-diversion monitoring is being coordinated by the International Red River Board. In July 2006, the board completed a monitoring proposal that was developed in consultation with experts from the United States and Canada to ensure a scientifically defensible undertaking.

The project plan assigns technical and financial responsibility to Canada for the collection and analysis of biological data in the Canadian portion of the basin and to the United States for like work carried out in its portion of the basin. Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada committed funds for Canadian work carried out in 2006 and the U.S. Section of the IJC provided funding for the U.S. component. Funding for future work remains uncertain.

Additional efforts in the board’s current threeyear work plan will build on the IJC’s International Watershed Initiative and continue to expand scientific knowledge of the Red River aquatic ecosystem by assessing communities of fish and bottomdwellers, the distribution of exotic species and plant community structures and trends.

IJC urges immediate action to complete the CSSC fish barrier

In an unusual move, IJC Commissioners wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on February 7 to request that she lend her strong voice to support immediate action on legislation that would complete an electric fish dispersal barrier system designed to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive fish species such as Asian carps to and from the Great Lakes.

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connects the Chicago and Illinois rivers. It was constructed in the 1890s to allow navigation and wastewater to pass between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. Scientists warn that the canal also opens the door to the transfer of aquatic invasive species between these two major watersheds. Electrodes across the bottom of the canal create an electrical field in the water to disperse fish that try to cross the barrier.

"Rarely does the Commission endorse specific legislation, but in this case, we believe that quick action to address this imminent threat is paramount in order to protect a $4.5 billion fishery and other interests vital to both countries," according to the letter.

The IJC is concerned that adequate preventive measures are not in place to keep Asian carps from invading the Great Lakes. Authorization and funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete work on an electric fish dispersal barrier southwest of Chicago have been held up, while a demonstration dispersal barrier has exceeded its planned life and is failing. As a result, Asian carps that are currently in the Illinois River could reach the Great Lakes as soon as this spring, creating the potential for an economic and environmental disaster.

Commissioners said that providing funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the barrier system should not be delayed; next year may be too late.


The IJC welcomes recent appointments to its boards and expresses its gratitude to those who contributed their time and talent to assist Canada and the United States with managing transboundary environmental issues.

* Council of Great Lakes Research Managers

Welcomes :
  Dr. John Lawrence
Co-chair, Canadian Section
Aquatic Ecosystem Management Research Branch
National Water Research Institute
Canada Centre for Inland Waters
Environment Canada

Dr. Leon M. Carl
Center Director
Great Lakes Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Paul Horvatin
Program Manager
Great Lakes National Program Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Edward L. Mills
Department of Natural Resources
Cornell Biological Field Station

* Great Lakes Science Advisory Board

Welcomes :
  Dr. Pierre Filion
School of Planning
University of Waterloo

Completing Service :
  Dr. Scott Brown (Deceased)
National Water Research Institute

Glenn Fox (Resigned)
Canadian Wildlife Service

Dr. Isobel Heathcote (Resigned)
Guelph University

Dr. Mohamed Karmali (Resigned)
Public Health Agency of Canada

* International Air Quality Advisory Board

Completing Service :
  Micheal Brauer
University of British Columbia

  Dr. Paul Lioy
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

* International Niagara Board of Control

Completing service :
  Constantine "Gus" Tjoumas, P.E.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

* International Kootenay Lake Board of Control

Welcomes :
  Colonel Michael McCormick, Chair U.S. Section
District Engineer
Seattle District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Completing Service :
  LTC Debra M. Lewis
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

* Health Professionals Task Force

Welcomes :
  Dr. Raymond Cope
Victoria, British Columbia

Dr. Monica Campbell
Environmental Protection Office
Toronto Public Health

Patrick Levallois, M.D.
Direction des risques biologiques, environnementaux et occupationnels
Institut national de santé publique du Québec

Dr. Russell Lopez
Research Assistant Professor
Environmental Health
Boston University School of Public Health

* International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control

Welcomes :
  Colonel Michael McCormick, Chair U.S. Section
District Engineer
Seattle District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Completing Service :
  LTC Debra M. Lewis
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

* International Rainy River Water Pollution Board

Completing Service :
  John Merriman, Chair, Canadian Section
Environmental Conservation Branch
Environment Canada

* International Red River Board

Welcomes :
  Dr. Susan Ellen Cosens
Acting Environmental Science Division Manager
Central and Arctic Region
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  Dr. L. Gordon Goldsborough
Department of Botany
University of Manitoba

Completing Service :
  Mr. Terrence Shortt
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  Syed M. A. Moin
Meteorological Service
Environment Canada

Contact Us

The IJC is interested in your views on any of our activities. You may contact us in the following ways:

  United States
  Great Lakes
Regional Office

Contacts   Murray Clamen
  Lisa Bourget
Frank Bevacqua
Public Affairs
  Dr. Karen Vigmostad
Bruce B. Brown
Public Affairs


Mail   234 Laurier Avenue West
22nd Floor
Ottawa, ON
K1P 6K6
  1250 23rd Street NW
Suite 100
Washington, DC 20440
  100 Ouellette Avenue, 8th Floor
Windsor, ON
N9A 6T3
P.O. Box 32869
Detroit, MI 48232-2869

Fax   (613) 993-5583   (202) 467-7046   (519) 257-6740

Telephone   (613) 995-2984   (202) 736-9000   (519) 257-6700
(313) 226-2170

Home Page


  Dennis L. Schornack
U.S. Section Chair 

Irene Brooks

Allen Olson

Rt. Hon. Herb Gray
Canadian Section Chair 

Robert Gourd

Jack Blaney


The International Joint Commission prevents and resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and pursues the common good of both countries as an independent and objective advisor to the two governments.