Monday, February 27, 2012

Groups Urge Strong Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Feb 27: Sixty-one public interest groups have sent a letter to Great Lakes Members of Congress in the United States and Great Lakes Members of Parliament and the Senate in Canada on the renegotiation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) to protect and restore the lakes. The groups represent thousands of people in the U.S. and Canada from around the Great Lakes Basin who rely on the Lakes for water, food and recreation.

    According to a release from the groups, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) is a bi-national, non-binding framework to protect and restore the Great Lakes. In the letter, the groups provided a detailed discussion of citizen expectations and goals for the Agreement, and highlighted the importance of citizen participation as the negotiation draws to a close. Their elected representatives were urged to take an active role in ensuring that their governments have renegotiated a strong Agreement to protect the Great Lakes. The letter was sent on the heels of the announcement that the two countries are planning "to report to the public on the outcome of the negotiation sessions" including "a description of the conceptual consensus reached on what should be in an amended Agreement".
    Even with the statements, the signatories indicated they fear that the report will be no more specific nor substantial than previous communications from the governments, and will do little to address the concerns of citizens. John Jackson of Great Lakes United said, "This is only the third renewal of the Agreement in four decades, and thus a rare opportunity to ensure that the Agreement has the vision and broad support that will guide us through the coming decades. The Agreement will be a guide for policy and actions in the U.S. and Canada to protect and restore the Great Lakes over the next twenty years or more; it is essential that it address key issues of concern to stakeholders in the basin."

    The groups indicated that the U.S. and Canada, as the public trustees and guardians of this system, share particular responsibility for protecting it from a  growing number of environmental stresses that threaten its vitality and resilience. The groups warn that unless "bold action" is taken, the Great Lakes continue to be at risk of irreparable ecological damage and decline. The GLWQA was originally signed in 1972 under the auspices of the Boundary Waters Treaty between the two countries.
    The Governments of the United States and Canada (the Parties) recently held the final negotiation session and the amended GLWQA is now in the process of being finalized and approved. The Parties have announced they will report to the public on the outcome of the negotiation sessions and provide an overview of the amendments put forward to Governments for approval. The presentation will include a description of the conceptual consensus reached on what should be in an amended Agreement. A webinar will be held Monday, March 5, 2012 from 2:00 - 3:30 PM Central Time/ 3:00 - 4:30 PM Eastern Time). The Parties indicated that a copy of the presentation will be provided within 48 hours of March 5, 2012.
    Access a release from the groups and link to the letter and listing of participating organizations (click here). Access complete information on the webinar (click here). Access the website for additional information from the governments (click here). Access more information about the GLWQA Agreement from EPA (click here). Access the GLWQA blog from Great Lakes United (click here).
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