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Canada-US water pact to be renegotiated

CBC reports that, “Canada and the United States will renegotiate the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont.”

The Globe and Mail adds that Clinton and Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, “agreed to update a key agreement to protect the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement — a pact which hasn’t been touched since 1987 — will be re-opened for negotiation between the two countries, Ms. Clinton said.”

“The agreement to protect the lakes — which make up almost 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water — was first signed in 1972 by then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who said it recognized ‘the fragility of our planet and the delicacy of the biosphere on which all life is dependent.'”

“The pact lays out the rights and obligations of both countries for the Great Lakes and a portion of the St. Lawrence River that straddles the border, particularly their obligation not to pollute boundary waters.”

“Under the treaty, both countries must agree to any project that would change the natural levels or flows of boundary waters. It also states that waters shall not be polluted on either side of the boundary to the injury of health or property on the other side.”

“For years, environmentalists and officials on both sides of the border have been lobbying their governments to update the Great Lakes agreement to reflect more modern problems, such as invasive species, climate change, emerging chemicals and contamination.”

The Windsor Star in November 2007 quoted Maude Barlow saying, “The Great Lakes are in crisis now. With the increases in the introduction of invasive species, only three per cent of the species in the lakes are native now. We’re destroying wetlands. There are 360 chemicals to be found in the Great Lakes and four trillion litres of water are being drawn out every day.”

CTV reports that Clinton said, “We have to update it to reflect new knowledge, new technologies and, unfortunately, new threats. The agreement was last amended in 1987, and since then, new invasive species have appeared in our lakes; new worrisome chemicals have emerged from our industrial processes; our knowledge of the ecology of the region and how to protect it has grown considerably. In its current form, the Great Lakes agreement does not sufficiently address the needs of our shared ecosystem.”

Clinton added. “The rivers, the lakes, the streams, the watersheds along our boundary do not belong to one nation or the other, but to both of us, and we are therefore called to be good stewards in the care of these precious resources.”

In that same news report Cannon said the Great Lakes are “fundamental to our mutual health and wellbeing,” and said that Canada and the US would work together to ensure that citizens “have access to clean, safe and healthy water.”

The Barack Obama – Joe Biden election fact sheet on the environment stated, “Having lived near Lake Michigan for 20 years, Barack Obama has a deep appreciation for the Great Lakes – for their beauty as well as their centrality to the region’s economy, recreation, transportation, and drinking water. He has worked tirelessly in the Illinois State Senate and U.S. Senate to protect the Great Lakes from sludge, mercury, and invasive species.  As president, Barack Obama will push for the passage of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which will move us past playing. defense against environmental problems and toward a comprehensive restoration of the Great Lakes.  He is a cosponsor of the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act, which would provide grants for projects including wetland restoration, coastal wildlife and fisheries habitat improvement, water quality improvement and nonpoint source pollution reduction.”

The Huffington Post reported on June 4 that, “Cameron Davis, leader of a Chicago-based environmentalist group, has been appointed to oversee President Barack Obama’s initiative to clean up the Great Lakes. Davis is president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, one of many organizations that have pushed for a restoration program expected to cost more than $20 billion.”

“He will coordinate efforts of about a dozen federal agencies working on the administration’s Great Lakes project, which deals with issues such as invasive species, polluted harbors, sewage overflows and degraded wildlife habitat.”

“During the campaign last year, Obama pledged $5 billion over a decade toward implementing the plan. His proposed 2010 budget seeks $475 million in new spending on the lakes. Obama also promised to appoint a management ‘czar’ and settled on Davis, a 23-year veteran of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, previously known as the Lake Michigan Federation. The group advocates for improving water quality and land use, conservation, habitat recovery and clean energy.”

The Globe and Mail notes that the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement “stemmed from the century-old Boundary Waters Treaty, which sets out principles for Canada and the U.S. to follow in using the waters they share and created an international joint commission to settle disputes between the two countries.”

“The Boundary Waters Treaty (is) largely considered to be the first piece of modern environmental legislation.”

The Boundary Waters Treaty created the independent International Joint Commission which handles applications for, and then oversees, projects slated for boundary waters, such as dams.

The text of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement can be found at

The Obama-Biden fact sheet is at

The news stories are at: