June 7, 2004

New U.S. Interagency Task Force targets results-based action on Great Lakes

In a recent statement, federal Environment Minister David Anderson welcomed the creation of the United States Great Lakes Interagency Task Force.

"The Government of Canada warmly welcomes the announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt of the establishment of a U.S. Great Lakes Task Force to improve coordination among U.S. agencies responsible for cleanup programs in the Great Lakes," Anderson said.

"The Executive Order signed...by President Bush to create the Interagency Task Force is a strong sign of the importance of the Great Lakes to the United States Government and its commitment to addressing the key impacts on the environmental quality of the lakes. The Canadian Government reaffirms its commitment to work with the United States to address these challenges, including integrated water management, invasive species and habitat protection and restoration," he continued.

The new Task Force brings together ten U.S. agencies and Cabinet officers, led by the U.S. EPA, to provide strategic direction on federal Great Lakes policy, priorities and programs. Together these agencies administer more than 140 federal programs set up to fund and implement environmental restoration and management activities in the Great Lakes basin. In addition the EPA, member agencies include the Departments of State, of Interior, of Agriculture, of Commerce, of Housing and Urban Development, of Transportation and of the Army, along with the Council on Environmental Quality.

The President's Executive Order calls for the development of outcome-based goals such as cleaner water, sustainable fisheries and ecosystem biodiversity; it also assigns the Task Force the mandate of ensuring that federal efforts target measurable results. The Bush Administration has also proposed, in its 2005 budget, an allocation of $45 million (U.S.) to clean up contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes; this is a $35 million increase over 2004 levels.

In a statement, EPA Administrator Leavitt said he would begin meeting immediately with governors, local officials, tribal leaders and non-governmental organizations to receive their views on how best to accomplish the task of developing a generation-to-generation plan for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. "We will invite participation of the Canadian government," he added, noting that "contacts will be made through appropriate diplomatic channels." Leavitt noted that regional collaboration will be important in producing results-oriented strategies for making meaningful progress. "The President has asked for a formal report by May 31, 2005," he added.

The new Task Force is similar in composition to the Great Lakes Program, a multi-agency initiative launched by the Canadian government in 1989 to help Canada meet its commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Renewed in 1994 and again in 2000, the current Great Lakes Program is a co-ordinated effort involving among eight federal departments and agencies: Environment Canada, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Transport Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Parks Canada Agency.

The federal and Ontario governments also collaborate on Great Lakes-related programs through COA, the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. The sixth COA, signed in March 2002, is a cooperative effort involving eight federal departments and agencies and three provincial ministries. In addition, a Great Lakes Binational Executive Committee works to ensure binational co-ordination and co-operation between Canadian and U.S. agencies responsible for delivering programs in the Great Lakes.

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