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Northeast-Midwest Institute on Bi-National Great Lakes Efforts

Posted on April 18, 2017

The Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI), a U.S. not-for-profit focused on economic development in and around the Great Lakes, has commented on the International Joint Commission (IJC) Triennial Assessment of Progress on Great Lakes Water Quality and the 2016 Progress Report of the Parties.

NEMWI has issued two substantive comments on the subjects of the documents: Nutrients and Areas of Concern (AOCs).

Nutrients

NEMWI points out that the IJC’s Triennial Assessment of Progress (TAP) report shows a lack of specificity by Canada and the U.S. in their commitments to “undertake and share research, [the] monitoring and modeling necessary to establish, report on, and assess the management of phosphorus and other nutrients and improve the understanding of relevant issues associated with nutrients and excessive algal blooms.” NEMWI believes that it is important that both countries establish specific monitoring goals to help meet specific nutrient reduction goals.

Achievement of phosphorus reduction goals in Lake Erie, especially dissolved reactive phosphorus reduction goals, would benefit from monitoring that:

  • Targets a variety of watershed scales and loading sources; and
  • Occurs at significant frequencies over a period of time such that an adequate number of samples are obtained to detect trends in nutrient concentrations.

NEMWI also notes that in the 2016 Progress Report of the Parties (PROP) neither the U.S. nor Canada has provided much “discussion of declining nutrient levels in the open waters of most of the lakes and no plans are provided to address the issue.” As such, NEMWI has stated that both governments should look to increase monitoring to help better understand what is causing the nutrient decline.

Areas of Concern

With respect to AOCs, NEMWI has stated that it’s imperative for both parties to balance the rapid removal of Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) and the delisting of AOCs with ensuring that remedial actions taken at these sites are permanent and robust. They also state that monitoring of site conditions should occur at a frequency and for a period of time that is adequate to ensure that recurrence of beneficial use impairments will not occur once de-listing has happened.

In order to properly address AOCs, NEMWI has suggested the creation of a Great Lakes Executive Committee Annex Subcommittee. The wider sharing of information, especially between Canada and the U.S., may help to develop more effective remediation plans that better consider the biogeochemical cycling of chemical pollutants, which may be more beneficial to the wide variety of physical and chemical conditions present in each AOC site.

A system should be set up to assist the five binational AOCs to better coordinate their actions to more closely follow an ecosystem approach to removing BUIs.

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