Overall, the news from the shared Canada-United States boundary was good. On balance, IJC boards charged with transboundary efforts to manage flows, water quality, and aquatic resources reported at our recent Fall Semi-Annual Meeting in Ottawa that people living along the waters shared by the two countries avoided extreme flooding and drought conditions.
Lake Superior and Michigan-Huron levels persist below average, but they are much higher than record low levels set nearly a year ago. Water quality remains a persistent concern. Excessive nutrients causing algal blooms continue to be a concern in Lake Erie. Aquatic invasive species continue to march westward. Zebra mussels have begun reproducing in the Red River basin and residents living around Lake Osoyoos continue hard work to control a herbaceous milfoil invasion.
Eurasian water milfoil. Credit: USFWS.
In addition to individual board appearances focused on the conditions and issues specific to their watershed, board members from Maine to British Columbia participated in an International Watersheds Initiative workshop designed to solicit ideas and insights from board members and inform IJC strategic priorities. The access and delivery of data and information, which builds upon IJC’s transboundary data harmonization effort, continue to be a top priority across IJC boards.
The service of the professionals on IJC boards sustains transboundary cooperation and problem-solving. As the eyes and ears along the boundary, IJC board members are volunteers and experts in their field, and like Commissioners, they serve impartially. In an attempt to translate this value into a dollar figure, the Great Lakes Science Advisory Board estimated, not including salaries, a $1 million value annually for its board alone. The collective expertise and integrity of board member service provides the foundation for the IJC’s cooperative work to protect shared waters.
In Ottawa, IJC recognized several retirements of long-serving board members:
André has served in several additional capacities for the Commission during his tenure. An articulate workhorse and technical expert, the Commission has relied on André for 28 years.
He assures us that he isn’t going too far away.
Rick Cousins has served the Commission for the last 31 years.
Responsible for daily regulation monitoring to the International Rainy Lake Board of Control, Rick’s work on reviewing rule curve and the Lake Sturgeon Monitoring Protocol have been especially valuable.
A technical expert and effective communicator, Rick has been a fixture in Lake of the Woods-Rainy River country for three decades of high and low water.
The IJC wishes André and Rick the best in their next adventures.
IJC’s Great Lakes water quality boards also made their last appearance in their current configuration. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 2012 expanded membership and the IJC established a public nomination process to repopulate new Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Water Quality Board (WQB). These boards contributed greatly to advancing Great Lakes science and policy.
The bar is set high and the foundation is strong to propel the next Great Lakes boards to tackle enduring Great Lakes challenges. The Commission is grateful for the service of outgoing SAB and WQB members and looks forward to working closely with new board members in helping the governments achieve the objectives of the new Agreement. The new board members are due to be announced in early 2014.
Engaging the public, scientists, and decision-makers along the shared Canada-U.S. border in IJC activities is a priority. IJC is using the social media tools of Twitter and Facebook, supported by a redesigned website, to share and listen more.
In the first part of 2014, the IJC expects to release a number of reports and recommendations. Deliberations on Plan 2014 for Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River water levels and flows are ongoing. An updated order regarding flows at the St. Marys River connecting Lake Superior to Lakes Michigan-Huron is being finalized.
The IJC also anticipates finalizing the Task-Team’s Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Strategy in the first part of 2014. The rule curve in the Rainy River is being reviewed, and a water quality plan of study is being developed. Additionally, the IJC awaits responses on advice provided regarding developing a plan of study to address flooding in the Richelieu River-Lake Champlain basin and the Souris River.
Heading into the IJC’s 105th year, we well understand the importance and role of communication to anticipate and avoid disputes. Coordinated crisis response – for aquatic invaders or droughts and deluges – are dependent upon investments in binational relationships and commitments to cooperation.
As always, cooperation depends on people. Be engaged, stay informed, and tell your friends. Our shared waters need you.