International Joint Commission
    United States and Canada

  June 04, 2003

IJC pleased with recent U.S. GAO report on Great Lakes restoration


The International Joint Commission (IJC) is pleased that the recent report of the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) "Great Lakes – An Overall Strategy and Indicators for Measuring Progress Are needed to Better Achieve Restoration Goals” agrees with the findings of the May 1st special report of the IJC entitled “The Status of Restoration Activities in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern” and its September 2002 11th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality.

The GAO concluded in its report that there is no coordinated or unified strategy to restore the Great Lakes. Other organizations, including the IJC, have reached the same conclusion, and made recommendations consistent with those in the GAO report for several years.

In September 2002, the IJC’s 11th Biennial Report to the Governments of the U.S. and Canada on Great Lakes Water Quality urged a balanced but more aggressive approach to restoring and protecting the lakes. The IJC noted that the Great Lakes cannot successfully receive the needed support as a national priority in each country without a publically accepted, comprehensive plan. The report also recommended, among other things, that the U.S. and Canadian Governments develop reliable data to support key indicators of progress to restore the integrity of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. Furthermore, the report urged the governments to take more aggressive steps to end the invasion of alien species.

In October 2002, the GAO and Canada’s Environmental Auditor General issued reports pointing to the need for a coordinated strategy to stop the invasion of the Great Lakes by nuisance species. In 2001 a report on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin by Canada’s Environmental Auditor General noted the need for “a long-term view, sustained actions, research and monitoring, and stable funding in line with commitments.”

In May 2003, the IJC issued a Special Report recommending that the federal, state and provincial governments ensure accountability and responsibility for Remedial Action Plans and set clear lines of authority for each Area of Concern.

“The fact that three independent organizations with oversight functions keep reaching the same conclusions sends a very powerful message. We hope this latest report helps to focus the U.S. Government’s response,” said Dennis Schornack, chair of the IJC’s U.S. Section.

“The convergence of analysis is significant. The GAO’s work supports what the IJC and many observers have found,” said the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, chair of the IJC’s Canadian Section.

The need for a coordinated or unified strategy to restore the Great Lakes has long been recognized and many organizations have put forth their visions of a unified strategy. On September 19-20, 2003, the IJC will be hosting its 2003 Great Lakes Conference and Biennial Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Saturday program will focus on these various restoration plans with a goal of bringing the elements of these plans together in a public forum for discussion and debate.

More information about the IJC, its reports and the 2003 Great Lakes Conference and Biennial Meeting can be found at http://www.ijc.org.