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algal bloom in Lake Memphremagog

International Joint Commission Releases Recommendations to Protect Lake Champlain-Missisquoi Bay and Lake Memphremagog from Harmful Algal Blooms


The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released its final report to the Governments of Canada and the United States in response to the October 2017 request regarding the persistent issues of nutrient loading and harmful algal blooms that adversely affect recreation, human health, and ecosystems on both sides of the border in the Missisquoi Bay of Lake Champlain as well as in Lake Memphremagog.

Public concern for blue-green or harmful algal blooms (HABs) has continued to intensify over the past decade within the entire Champlain / Memphremagog region. In the summer season, HABs have resulted in socioeconomic losses and threatened the safety of drinking water. To address these concerns, the IJC recommends that the governments of Canada and the United States provide stronger and more focused leadership in the following areas:

  1. Strengthen current government efforts (estimated 10 years to complete):  Federal governments should accelerate the pace of recovery and protection working with provincial, state, local and indigenous governments to strengthen current efforts to systematically implement the recommendations in the SAGs’ reports.
  1. Improve existing governance mechanisms (estimated 2 years to complete): Federal governments should provide resources to support existing provincial, state and local governance mechanisms that coordinate binational oversight of the basins to more effectively sustain long-term management of joint efforts and actions.
  1. Understand nutrient inputs and outputs (estimated 3 years to complete): Federal governments should assist in providing an improved understanding of nutrient input/outputs in each of the two basins by supporting more harmonization of provincial, state, and local science efforts to create a comprehensive binational mass balance model that enables jurisdictions to efficiently and effectively evaluate and manage measures to mitigate nutrient loading.
  1. Develop and initiate implementation of basin-specific action plans (estimated 7 years to initiate): Using the mass balance model, federal governments should work with provincial, state, local and indigenous governments to develop and implement basin-specific, binational sustained action plans (approximately 20-30 years) to address nutrient loading in both basins. These action plans should set out the following, with accompanying timelines and should occur in consultation with the public, stakeholders, and local and indigenous communities:
    • Set societal sustainability goals and objectives;
    • Ensure an understanding of nutrient inputs and outputs (i.e., mass balance);
    • Set nutrient specific objectives that target critical source areas and are enforced by the relevant government;
    • Implement targeted adaptive management plans that include BMPs, market-based mechanisms and financial incentives to meet nutrient specific objectives;
    • Develop a sustained communication strategy for the duration of action plans; and,
    • Create an ongoing adaptive oversight and evaluation plan with systematic review of management plans.

The IJC collaborated with watershed organizations, local governments and the scientific and academic community to review existing information and gather the latest research. The final report to the federal governments also includes technical reports and more detailed sets of recommendations developed in partnership with the following basin organizations: the Lake Champlain Basin Program, l'Organisme de bassin versant de la baie Missisquoi, Memphremagog Conservation Inc. and Memphremagog Watershed Association.

To learn more about the review of nutrient loading and impacts in lakes Champlain and Memphremagog, visit: The IJC is also undertaking an International Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Flooding Study and information can be found at:


For more information, contact:

Kevin Bunch              202-632-2014            

Michele D’Amours     613-947-1420