U.S. and Canadian officials signed a new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in early September, updating the original document first signed in 1972. The strategy to protect the water shared by the two countries now includes focus on climate change, invasive species and other emerging issues. But not all Great Lakes advocates are happy.
“We were wanting real targets eliminating certain
things, certain percent habitat restoration, things of that nature that are
clear targets with guidelines,” said John Jackson, interim executive director
and program director for Great Lakes United.
“Our frustration is that these planning processes can take far too long
and we need action now. Lake Erie can’t
wait three years for you to decide what your targets are and for [another] five
years before you develop an action plan.”
Lack of specifics, and the need for transparency
and accountability are among the criticisms being leveled by many other
advocates. Negotiations between the U.S.
and Canada on water quality management have historically been somewhat
secretive and citizen groups like Great Lakes United want that to change.
Andrew Buchsbaum, co-chair of Healing Our Waters
Coaltion (of which the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a member organization),
noted that in the past four decades the Water Quality Agreement has played a
major role in battling nutrient and sewage pollution, and other contaminants
like mercury and polychoinated biphenyls (PCBs).
“The question is whether the Agreement can move us
quicker toward action plans that really have a chance of working,” said
Conservancy President Bill Taylor, of Duck Lake in Calhoun County. “We don’t need any more vague problem
A week after the new Agreement was signed,
scientists gathered in Cleveland to discuss the health of the Great Lakes, and
in particular, Lake Erie. Among the
topics were toxic algae blooms, possible entry of Asian carp, and fish kills in
July (near Cleveland) and September (in Canadian waters of Lake Erie).
Last year, scientists from both the U.S. and
Canada monitored a huge toxic algae bloom that covered the western third of
Lake Erie. The bloom clogged harbors and
fouled boat motors. Less phosphorous
entered Lake Erie this year, but biologists are discussing strategies for
long-term phosphorous control to thwart re-occurrences of the bloom next year
“We hope all this discussion leads to prompt
action,” said Taylor.