Promoting Watershed Security in Ontario – Water for People and for Nature

OHI E-news of November 21, 2017

At 9 am next Tuesday, November 28, the International Joint Commission will release its first Triennial Assessment of Progress under the re-newed Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The assessment is eagerly anticipated.

A lot has been done in the recent past to prepare the ground for the assessment. For example, lakewide action and management plans (LAMPs) have been published on each lake, and draft strategies have been prepared on both reducing chemicals of mutual concern s across the basin and on phosphorus reduction in Lake Erie. Each can be seen at binational   dot   net.

As we await the assessment, we hope it adopts a wider perspective on how the Great Lakes are linked to the Basin than in the past. For example:

The Great Lakes climate change report had no mandate and no funding to properly address climate change in the Basin, where changes to flora, wetlands, and stream temperature could severely impact the Lakes;

Of the 9 objectives cited in the Lake Superior LAMP, 8 were “Good” and 1 was “Fair”: maintaining tributaries and watersheds in good ecological condition.  Yet little was said about where that was headed and how to better protect the watersheds; and,

The recently released State of the Great Lakes 2017 contained unabashed greenwash on the state of the watersheds. For example, the report stated that “Across the entire basin, almost 400 square kilometres (154 square miles) or 40,000 hectares of natural lands were converted to developed land cover between 2001 and 2011. The latest analysis shows a growing trend of increasing development, resulting in a loss of agricultural, forested and natural lands”. Unaccountably, the report assessed that Watershed conditions were “Fair”, which is debatable, and that the trend was “Unchanging”, which is, shall we say, wishful thinking.

In 1972, the original Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement focused on the water quality. In 1987, purpose was broadened to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.” In 1987, the eco-system approach was broadened, and Remedial Action Plans were launched to address significantly degraded Areas of Concern, although the IJC never established the promised maps of the sources of pollution for each Area of Concern.

The OHI understands and supports the need to allocate significant resources to protect the water in the Great Lakes and to address near-shore activity such as municipal and industrial pollution. We hope the report due next week lifts the vision to include the health of the whole Basin, including both the protection of our watersheds and their biodiversity as well as the role of extensive watershed activities such as agriculture, forestry, and mining.