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News Release
May 14, 2012

International Joint Commission Sets Great Lakes Priorities for 2012-2015 Expert Panels will focus on Lake Erie, Assessment of Progress and Scientific Capacity

[Windsor, Ontario] - The International Joint Commission of Canada and the U.S. today announced its priority work to develop recommendations to assist governments in implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). During 2012-2015, the Commission will focus on:

  • Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority to Reduce Phosphorus Loads and Algal Blooms
  • Assessment of Progress Toward Restoring the Great Lakes
  • Assessing the Capacity to Deliver Great Lakes Science and Information

“These priorities reflect extensive discussions with our advisory boards and with the public,” said Lana Pollack, U.S. co-chair of the Commission.  “In particular, both the public and scientific experts urged us to focus on the crisis facing Lake Erie and to bring stakeholders in both countries together to recommend a clear plan and best practices to reduce nutrient pollution and restore the lake.”

“Over the next three years, our work groups will conduct new research, review scientific literature, and engage the public,” said Joe Comuzzi, Canadian co-chair of the Commission.  “We take our responsibilities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement very seriously and intend to deliver value-added findings and recommendations to the governments.”

Drawing from its own advisory boards and outside experts, the Commission has assembled bi-national work groups to examine these issues, undertake a joint fact-finding process and make consensus recommendations.  Management teams for the work groups are led by scientists in the Commission’s Great Lakes Regional Office (GLRO) in Windsor and liaisons from both section offices in Washington and Ottawa. 

Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority to Reduce Phosphorus and Algal Blooms.  The ultimate goal of this priority is to advise governments on the essential elements of a plan to reduce the loading of phosphorus to Lake Erie and to prevent harmful algal blooms.  The work group will focus on developing a better scientific understanding of causes and controls and make recommendations for needed monitoring systems and best management practices to address agricultural, urban, and industrial sources of nutrient pollution.  Expected outcomes also include recommendations to improve coastal resiliency and governance. 
GLRO Staff Lead:  Raj Bejankiwar,

Assessment of Progress toward Restoring the Great Lakes.  This priority will examine both human health and environmental indicators to assess progress toward Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement objectives.  Experts will also identify gaps in current monitoring programs and recommend needed improvements in monitoring capabilities.  In addition, a framework for assessing the effectiveness of programs and other measures implemented by governments to protect and restore the Great Lakes under the Agreement will be developed. 
GLRO Staff Lead:  Lizhu Wang,

Assessing the Capacity to Deliver Great Lakes Science and Information.  With a focus on Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement objectives, the work group will assess binational capacity and capability to coordinate and deliver Great Lakes science.  In particular, access to data will be a key focus of their work, including identifying a common portal to lists of both human health and environmental data and demonstrating the benefits of connecting such datasets.  Efforts under this priority will also include increasing the capacity of the IJC to process and distribute GIS/remote sensing information in support of Agreement reporting requirements. 
GLRO Staff Lead:  Mark Burrows,

Advisory panels assisting the Commission include:

  • The Great Lakes Water Quality Board is the principal advisor to the Commission and brings together top officials from federal, state, provincial and municipal governments with management responsibilities for water quality programs.
  • The Great Lakes Science Advisory Board advises the Commission and Water Quality Board and includes experts drawn from academia, government, industry and nongovernmental organizations.
  • The Council of Great Lakes Research Managers provides advice on research, fosters cooperative projects and gives managers of government and academic research institutions a forum to coordinate their Great Lakes research efforts.
  • The Health Professionals Advisory Board provides advice to the Commission regarding transboundary issues that affect human health.
  • The International Air Quality Advisory Board includes experts from governments and academia who identify and provide advice on air pollution issues with transboundary implications, including the Great Lakes.

As appropriate, priority work groups draw membership from these advisory boards and from outside experts.  All serve in their personal and professional capacities and not as representatives of the governments or organizations at which they are employed.  The IJC model of independent fact-finding supported by the efforts of such expert task forces has been successful in assisting the governments for more than one hundred years.

Under terms of the Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Commission has an ongoing reference to assess progress towards the goals of the Agreement and to provide expert scientific advice on issues related to restoring and protect water quality in the Great Lakes.  First signed in 1972, an updated version of the Agreement is expected to be signed by the parties later this year.

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