Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Great Lakes Commission’s Semiannual Meeting & Lobby Day

Jan 14: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) announce that Great Lakes Day 2008 will be held in Washington DC on February 28, 2008. This year, Great Lakes Day will be preceded by the Great Lakes Commission’s Semiannual meeting, which will be held in Washington on February 26, beginning at 1 PM through Noon on February 27 at the Palomar Hotel. Lunch and an afternoon session on February 27 will be held in conjunction with the Healing Our Waters Coalition to brief Great Lakes Day participants on legislative priorities and to prepare for visits to Congressional offices the next day.

Great Lakes Day is an annual event hosted by GLC and its partners to carry a unified expression of the Great Lakes region’s priorities for legislation and appropriations to assist in protecting the Great Lakes region’s environment and sustaining our economy. Last year, the Commission, in partnership with the Northeast Midwest Institute, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Healing Our Waters® - Great Lakes Coalition, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Mayors of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and tribal representatives brought more than 150 people from the region to Washington. Access an announcement, program and registration information (click here).

Presque Isle Bay AOC Air Deposition Study

Jan 15: Presque Isle Bay near Erie, Pennsylvania, is one of 43 locations around the Great Lakes region to have been designated an “Area of Concern” by the International Joint Commission (IJC), indicating that past use and contamination of the bay has led to impairments on the ability to fully use the bay for beneficial purposes. Presque Isle Bay has become the first of these 43 areas to be re-designated as an “Area of Recovery,” indicating that the bay’s management committee has determined that allowing a natural recovery -- rather than an active remediation project -- is the best course for bringing the bay back to full health. Local, state and national officials are therefore working hard to eliminate remaining sources of pollution to the bay and determine how long a wait is needed until the bay will return to health on its own.

Although historical pollution of the bay was largely through industrial discharges directly into the bay’s waters, the great majority of such releases have now been eliminated. However, large amounts of some toxic substances may be entering the bay -- and Lake Erie to which it connects -- by depositing from the atmosphere. If chemicals are entering from the atmosphere at a significant level, it could significantly affect the time it will take for the bay to recover and for pollution levels in the bay’s sediment to decrease.

Among the primary contaminants causing concern in Presque Isle Bay are a group known as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Unlike some persistent chemicals that can be transported across the globe in the atmosphere, PAHs are degraded quickly enough in the atmosphere that most deposition of these chemicals is likely to come from relatively local (within a few hundred miles) sources.

To determine the amount of these chemicals entering the bay, a study has been undertaken by a research team at Gannon University, led by Dr. Michelle Homan and Dr. Weslene Tallmadge, sponsored by the Great Lakes Commission’s Great Lakes Air Deposition (GLAD) Program. The results of the study allowed the research team to make some preliminary assessments of the relative importance of various sources to the PAH concentrations and deposition to the bay. Activities are now underway to collect additional sampling data, which is needed to improve the results of the source identification work.

Access a posted announcement of the project with links to additional information (click here). Access details on the project including a summary report and the complete final report (click here).

GLU Report On Great Lakes Decision-Making and Accountability

Jan 15: Great Lakes United (GLU) released a report describing how governance structures have stalled progress on protecting and restoring the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ecosystem. The report outlines a series of recommendations that GLU says will improve leadership and accountability across the basin and enhance leadership from key institutions. The report, A Way Forward: Strengthening Decision-Making and Accountability under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, focuses on the role and actions of the federal governments (with a particular emphasis on the Canadian government), the Binational Executive Committee, and the International Joint Commission.

The report is viewed principally through the lens of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the historic pollution prevention document signed by Canada and the United States. The report calls for the two governments to reinvigorate leadership on clean-up and protection through the present review and possible renegotiation of the Agreement, and to fully involve the public throughout this process. The report was co-authored by John Jackson, Clean Production Coordinator for Great Lakes United, and Karen Kraft Sloan, a former Member of Parliament and previously Canada’s Ambassador for the Environment.

Key recommendations in the report include: (1) That Canada and the United States empower the Binational Executive Committee to create a comprehensive binational, basin-wide workplan to achieve the goals of the GLWQA and fully include the public in this process. (2) That the Prime Minister identifies or creates a Ministerial position with direct and specific responsibility for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin and give a Parliamentary Standing Committee special responsibility for commenting on Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin matters. (3) That the responsible minister in Canada and the director of the U.S. EPA regularly undertake a government-wide review of basin-related programs and funding trends to ensure alignment with the basin-wide plans’ objectives. (4) That an All-Party Great Lakes Caucus be formed by members of Canada’s House of Commons and Senate. (5) That there be a more open appointment process for IJC commissioners. (6) That the public be more fully included in IJC board activities, including the appointment of a wider array of the Great Lakes community members to the IJC’s boards. (7) That legislative hearings in Parliament and Congress be held after the release of the IJC’s biennial reports to lead to more public accountability by the federal governments.

Access a release from GLU (click here). Access the complete 66-page report (click here).