NEWS RELEASE          
May 1, 2003          

IJC reviews progress to restore Great Lakes Areas of Concern

In a Special Report released today, the International Joint Commission (IJC) provides the most comprehensive review in almost a decade of the work to restore Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes. The IJC found that the United States and Canada have invested a significant amount of time and money in projects to restore the viability and environment of these areas and that two of 43 areas are considered restored.

In the report, the IJC makes nine recommendations to improve the management of restoration efforts, which if implemented, will assist the governments in taking a more comprehensive and strategic approach to restoration.

Recommendations include:

  • defining restoration targets where they do not exist;
  • developing maps specifying AOC boundaries;
  • ensuring accountability and responsibility for restoration;
  • securing needed resources; and
  • monitoring recovery.

To fill critical information gaps regarding restoration efforts, the IJC recommends that the two federal governments:
  • document their investment and achievements;
  • report formally every two years on the recovery of ecosystem health; and
  • ensure that monitoring, data support and information management systems are in place.
"Fully restoring the Great Lakes Areas of Concern will require major commitments of time and resources in both countries. If we are serious about getting the job done, a commitment on the part of the governments to address the key challenges is essential," said the Right Honourable Herb Gray, chair of the IJC's Canadian Section.

The IJC commends the two governments for their considerable investment in restoration projects, noting that the United States reports spending more than $3.5 billion (USD) on wastewater treatment and sediment remediation and Canada reports spending more than $300 million (CAD). However, the job is not finished and much of the needed information on actions taken to restore beneficial uses and activities planned for the future is either unavailable or incomplete.

"I am encouraged by the strong commitment of both the United States and Canada to Great Lakes restoration," said Dennis Schornack, chair of the IJC's U.S. Section. "In particular, the Great Lakes Legacy Act represents a $250 million, five-year strategy to clean up sediment, and I commend President Bush and Congress for their leadership."

Since 1987, 43 Areas of Concern have been designated because they contained contaminated sediment, inadequately treated wastewater, nonpoint source pollution, inland contaminated sites or degraded habitat, to a greater degree than the rest of the Great Lakes. Two locations, Collingwood Harbour and Severn Sound, both in Ontario, have since been considered cleaned up and removed from the list of Areas of Concern. One area in the United States, Presque Isle Bay in Pennsylvania, and one area in Canada, Spanish Harbour in Ontario, are recognized as being in a stage of recovery.

The IJC's special report is available on the CD of its Eleventh Biennial Report and on the Internet, with clickable maps that allow users to access specific information about each Area of Concern. In addition, the Commission has invited both governments to cooperate in making the report a "living document" on the web that is continuously updated with the latest information.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement calls on the IJC to assess the efforts of the governments of the United States and Canada to restore the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The agreement also charges the IJC with assisting the governments in the restoration process.

More information and the clickable map of Areas of Concern is available at .

Frank Bevacqua   Washington   (202) 736-9024
Fabien Lengellé   Ottawa   (613) 995-0088
Jennifer Day     Windsor   (519) 257-6733


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