May 8, 2006

IJC consultation report will guide governments during Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement review

More than 4,100 people and organizations participated in a public consultation led by the International Joint Commission (IJC) last fall as a lead-up to the first major review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) since 1987. Their comments and the issues raised have been synthesized by the IJC in a new report which will guide the Canadian and U.S. governments in their review, now under way.

In addition to 15 public meetings around the Great Lakes-St Lawrence basin, the IJC conducted an innovative, four-day interactive Web dialogue and received comments by E-mail, mail, fax and telephone. The results of the consultation indicated strong support for the GLWQA, with respondents urging all levels of government to reinvigorate their efforts to implement it.

Consultation participants were adamant about the need for good water quality, saying it is essential to ensure a healthy future for the lakes and the socio-economic well-being of the basin's residents and their communities. Water quantity was also of concern, together with climate change, and participants said these issues should be addressed in the GLWQA review.

Many concerns related to releases of municipal sewage and animal wastes, and considerable concern was expressed about aquatic invasive species as well. It was felt that initiatives to address these issues should be included in a revised Agreement.

There was a great deal of comment on the lack of progress toward delisting and restoring beneficial uses in Areas of Concern, as well as the need to reinviigorate Remedial Action Plans. Participants were also concerned about a variety of land use and watershed management issues. Many thought that these should be addressed during the review, especially the protection of wetlands.

Participants in different parts of the basin said the Agreement should include the St Lawrence River, downstream of the international boundary at Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York.

More public education efforts were favoured as a means of building support for Great Lakes restoration, and many participants proposed a stronger role for the IJC to hold governments accountable for achieving their Agreement commitments, educate the public about the Agreement, and facilitate public input during the review.

The IJC's Synthesis Report is available in French and English on the IJC Web site, More information is also available from Paula Fedeski-Koundakjian of the IJC's Ottawa office, 613/995-0088.

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