Potential Priorities for Consideration by the

International Joint Commission for 2003-2005 under the

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement


What is a Priority?


Priorities are specific issues for study that provide a focus for the work of the International Joint Commission and its advisory boards under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  These priority studies enhance understanding and provide potential resolution to issues faced by the Parties to the Agreement -- the governments of Canada and the United States -- and the citizens of the Great Lakes basin.  This work is not intended to substitute for the work of the Parties, but rather take advantage of the unique forum in which the IJC operates under the Agreement.  Work efforts under chosen Priorities are afforded specific monetary and human resources of the IJC and are conducted in addition to the ongoing work of each advisory board under its mandate.


The following topics are under consideration:


Advice Regarding the Review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement  


A review of the Agreement by the Parties is required in 2004, pursuant to Article X, following the transmittal of the IJC’s Twelfth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality to the governments of Canada and the United States. The Boards intend to examine selected aspects over the next year to assist the Parties with the review.  The IJC will:

·        provide comments on the purpose of the Agreement;

·        examine state of the art science on Great Lakes ecosystem stressors and the ability to address such stressors under the current Agreement;

·        explore opportunities for program and policy reform and how such reform might be made operational by the Agreement;

·        review research management and coordination related to the agreement,

·        provide advice on institutional arrangements to improve the implementation of the Agreement, and

·        suggest an open and transparent process to engage a broad cross section of the pubic in the review.

·        assess which annexes would benefit from up-dating and how that might be done most effectively.


Aquatic Invasive Species


In its Eleventh Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, transmitted to governments in 2001, the IJC states that despite more than a decade of national attention and regional action, the introduction and spread of aquatic alien invasive species continues to impair the biological integrity of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin ecosystem.  Immediate federal action to mandate improved ballast water management procedures can reduce but not eliminate the biological and economic threat to this ecosystem from further introduction and spread of alien invasive species.  The IJC has called on the governments of Canada and the United States to issue it a reference to coordinate and harmonize binational efforts for action to stop this ongoing threat to the biodiversity, biological integrity and the economy of the Great Lakes.  Priority work under this topic will be specified should the governments provide such a reference.


Land Use   


The trend over the past 20 to 30 years has been toward greater urbanization with its related increase in impervious cover.  This trend is accelerating and producing profound negative effects on local ecosystems throughout North America.  Some local, regional and state/provincial governments have embraced tools, such as watershed planning, urban growth boundaries and conservation design, with similar goals in mind.  The IJC continues to be active on the urbanization issue by addressing specific issues associated with the impacts on water quality in the Great Lakes basin and transferring this knowledge to decision makers.  The linkages between land use, unplanned growth, impacts on shoreline hardening, altered hydrologic regimes, implications for transportation and air quality, and climate change will be considered.  Also to be considered are elements of a renewed effort related to the former reference given to the Commission regarding Pollution from Land Use Activities.



Human Health


In the context of waterborne pathogens, new risk factors to human health, such as newly identified sensitive populations, global transportation and antibiotic resistance, and wastewater treatment efficiency, have created a heightened awareness of the importance of new scientific knowledge in managing these risks.  In addition, several new or relatively unknown classes of chemicals are emerging as potential water pollutants in the Great Lakes basin.  These include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (such as fire retardants), various pharmaceuticals and personal care products and approximately 20 currently used pesticides that are a potential concern for human and ecosystem health.  The IJC’s scientific assessment will identify priorities for future research and data needs, as well as assess policy implications of establishing action levels to protect human health based on multi-media exposure and the interactive effects of toxic substances, including PCBs, mercury, and the substances noted above. Where information is unknown or incomplete, the relevance of the precautionary principle will be considered.


Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement


There are existing institutional difficulties that have delayed the development and implementation of many Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) and Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs).  Opportunities exist to clearly identify challenges and highlight mechanisms to overcome obstacles.  The RAP and LaMP process must be expedited with efforts oriented toward achieving environmental improvements and restoring beneficial uses to make progress toward delisting Areas of Concern.  Work under this priority will assist governments and RAP and LaMP implementers by identifying institutional opportunities for the timely implementation of plans.  As appropriate, the IJC will undertake consultations and workshops to highlight potential remedies.



Climate Change

Various climate change scenarios could have serious impacts on the Great Lakes ecosystem.   Work will continue to identify potential consequences and how they can be managed.  The focus will be on the restoration of beneficial uses with an examination of what measures can be taken to ensure that gains are not eroded by climate change. This work will possibly include consideration of options for municipal infrastructure, protection of human health, land use, groundwater and wetlands.


What do you think of the priorities under consideration?


Do you have an issue that is not listed?


Comments on the proposed priorities can be submitted to the IJC in three ways:

Deadline for comments is Friday, October 3, 2003


Written           Submit comments to Dr. Gail Krantzberg, International Joint Commission, Great Lakes Regional Office


                        In Canada:                    100 Ouellette Ave.

                                                            Windsor, ON  N9A 6T3


                        In the U.S.:                   P.O. Box 32869

                                                            Detroit, MI  48232-2869


Oral                 During the town hall meeting portion of the September 20, 2003 Biennial Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Electronic       Using e-mail to Dr. Gail Krantzberg at krantzberg@windsor.ijc.org