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NEWS: Changes to Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement inadequate

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada and the United States will sign an amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement on Friday, the first time the landmark bi-national accord will be altered in 25 years. …The agreement was first signed in 1972 to guide environmental protection of the Great Lakes basin and is focused on restoration and maintenance of the waters’ integrity… Details of the changes have not yet been made public, but they are expected to include:

  • plans to prevent new introductions and control the spread of invasive species that are already in the lakes
  • a new section on habitat and species will look to conserve, protect, and restore native species in the Great Lakes and their habitats
  • adaptation to climate change for coastal communities
  • more stock in preventing future harm to the lakes
  • a new requirement for governments to give formal notification when planning anything that could impact on the environment of the Great Lakes, including the storage or transfer of nuclear waste, mining activities and oil and gas pipelines
  • greater opportunities for public input.”

So, “details of the changes have not yet been made public” and “a spokesman from Environment Canada declined to comment on the changes before the agreement is signed”, but we are to believe it includes “greater opportunities for public input”? And there’s to be ‘a requirement for governments to give formal notification of the transfer of nuclear waste’, but no ban on such an activity on the Great Lakes given they are the source of drinking water for some 40 million people? At this point it also appears to lack language relating to protecting the Lakes as a commons and public trust.

The news report notes, “John Jackson, a spokesman for Great Lakes United, an environmental coalition focused on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, said the changes sound promising – but added that without additional funding to support scientific monitoring in the Great Lakes, they may not make much difference.”

To read Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and FLOW chair Jim Olson’s presentation on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to the International Joint Commission in Washington, DC last December, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=12737.