The Great Lakes, A 35th Year Anniversary: Time to Look Forward

Article excerpt

The year 2007 marks the 35 th anniversary of the Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). On April 15, 1972, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Richard Nixon signed the GLWQA. This Agreement expresses the commitment of Canada and the United States to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. The GLWQA has had substantial influence on the cleanup and restoration of the region. The progress made since 1972 is evidenced by the documentation by scientists of the presence of spawning lake whitefish, the resurgence of cormorant population, the rediscovery of sturgeon populations, and the return of nesting and fledging bald eagles. Threats to the Great Lakes in the face of climate change, invasive species, habitat loss, and more, demand a renewal and revitalization of the GLWQA. The time is now to renovate the binational promises.

At the turn of the 20th century, reasonable people recognized that water does not abide by politics. The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, signed by Canada and United States was the first attempt to protect the shared waters of the two nations. It created an independent third party with a mandate to help prevent and solve disputes between the two nations. The International Joint Commission (IJC) has been a global archetype for cooperative problem solving of transboundary pollution between Canada and the United States. Since the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC has used experts, serving in their personal and professional capacities, to undertake independent fact-finding and provide independent advice for problem resolution. The conviction of those who negotiated the Boundary Waters Treaty was that solutions to the boundary problems should be based on deliberations of a permanent binational and equal institution, rather than through bilateral negotiations of diplomacy. The achievement of the common good as a basis for consensus has been the goal of the Commission for nearly a century.

A major achievement of the Commission was the study it undertook in 1960 and which led to the signing in 1972 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) (Canada-United States 1972). These IJC activities were a result of the highly influential 1964 request by Canada and the United States (termed a "reference") to study pollution in Lake Erie and elsewhere in the lower lakes (LeMarquand & Scott, 1980). Scientists associated with the IJC found that excessive phosphorus loads from anthropogenic sources were resulting in severe eutrophication of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (Vollenweider, 1968). The 1964 reference induced the creation of the GLWQA, one of the most significant contributions of the IJC to Great Lakes revitalization in its history (Krantzberg, Bratzel, & McDonald, 2006).

This year marks the 35 th Anniversary of the Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). On April 15, 1972, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Richard Nixon met to sign the GLWQA. This Agreement expresses the commitment of Canada and the United States to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. The GLWQA has had substantial influence on the cleanup and restoration of the region. The progress made since 1972 is evidenced by the documentation by scientists in 2005 (first time since 1916), 2006, and 2007 of the presence of spawning lake whitefish and eggs in the Detroit River, the resurgence of cormorant populations, the rediscovery of sturgeon populations, and the return of nesting and fledging bald eagles.

For 35 years, the Great Lakes regime has looked to the GLWQA as the mechanims for binational cooperation to keep our lakes, rivers, streams and coasts safe for human and nonhuman uses. The GLWQA is responsible for many important advances, including billions of dollars spent by governments to improve water quality, protect and rehabilitate habitat and biodiversity, and address water infrastructure needs. …