March 26, 2007

Draft COA adds climate change impacts, drinking water protection to commitments

In preparing to renew their long-standing agreement for co-operation on Great Lakes environmental protection activities, the federal and Ontario governments have added two new areas of special focus that will benefit from enhanced co-operative work in the Great Lakes basin: understanding climate change impacts, and protecting the Great Lakes as a source of drinking water.

Days before the current five-year Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA) expired on March 22, 2007, the two governments released a new draft COA for 2007-2010 for public comment. A 58-day comment period was initiated with the publication of a Notice of Intent in the March 17, 2007 edition of the Canada Gazette, Part I. The draft COA has been posted on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) registry, and on Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights registry.

The draft COA for 2007-2010 commits the two governments to continue to work together to improve and protect the Great Lakes, their waters and their ecosystem. Specifically, the new agreement calls for the cleanup of Areas of Concern, elimination or significant reduction in releases of harmful pollutants, and protection and restoration of the basin's biodiversity.

The COA will enhance awareness and stewardship of the Great Lakes by promoting greater involvement of COA partners and stakeholders in implementing the agreement and promoting the sustainability of Great Lakes communities. The co-ordination of monitoring, research and information-sharing will be improved as well.

The renewed three-year COA will contribute to meeting Canada's obligations under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which is currently under review by both countries. A new COA beyond 2010 would reflect the outcomes of that review.

In the coming weeks, the two governments will look for ways to involve the Canadian Great Lakes community over the next three years in developing a vision for the longer-term future of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.

Both governments are seeking public input on the draft COA. The deadline for written comments is May 16, 2007. It is expected that the agreement will be finalized and signed early this summer, following a review of the comments received.

The agreement may be viewed on Environment Canada's Web site, www.ec.gc.ca/CEPARegistry/agreements, or on Ontario's Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca, EBR registry number 010-0063. More information on COA and the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem is available at www.on.ec.gc.ca/greatlakes.

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