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Canada–Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health

The Government of Canada's Report on Comments

Introduction

This document has been prepared by the Government of Canada, pursuant to section 9 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to acknowledge and provide a federal report on comments received during the comment period for the draft Canada–Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health (COA). The Agreement was made available on Environment Canada’s website on April 24, 2014, and a notice of its availability was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on May 3, 2014. Comments were accepted until July 3, 2014.

Twenty-seven submissions were received during the comment period, representing a wide cross-section of opinion from individuals, environmental and other non-governmental organizations, industry representatives, municipalities, conservation authorities, and academia. Many of the comments received indicated support for the Agreement and in particular highlighted the comprehensive set of issues addressed, which for the first time includes aquatic invasive species, groundwater, habitat and species, and climate change. Many commenters encouraged the governments of Canada and Ontario to begin implementing COA as quickly as possible. All comments received were reviewed and given due consideration. A listing of commenters is contained in Appendix I.

Comments of relevance to the Government of Canada’s commitments in the Agreement, and accompanying Government of Canada responses, are described further below and have been grouped according to the following headings:

A number of comments recommended minor edits or specific changes to goals, results and commitments in the Agreement. Editorial comments received were noted but are generally not specified in this document. Likewise, comments related to commitments that the Government of Ontario will be undertaking through COA and that do not involve the Government of Canada were noted but are not identified in this document.

1. General Comment
Summary of CommentResponse

Scope of the Agreement

Commenters recommended expanding the scope of the Agreement by including a new annex on water security and by addressing the entire St. Lawrence River.

COA has been designed to support Canada in meeting its commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol of 2012 (2012 GLWQA) amending the 1978 Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Accordingly, the scope of COA is aligned to that of the 2012 GLWQA.

COA includes annexes that support the priorities identified in the 2012 GLWQA: Nutrients, Harmful Pollutants, Discharges from Vessels, Areas of Concern, Lakewide Management, Aquatic Invasive Species, Habitat and Species, Groundwater Quality, Climate Change Impacts, and Science. Annexes have also been added to COA to emphasize engagement with the Great Lakes community, First Nations and Métis, which are also priorities of the 2012 GLWQA.

Where appropriate, COA includes commitments that address water quality/quantity linkages; however, water quantity and security issues fall largely outside the scope of COA. Through a separate bilateral hydrometric agreement, Canada and Ontario work together to conduct water quantity surveys.

The geographical parameters of COA are consistent with those outlined in the 2012 GLWQA, which are limited to the Waters of the Great Lakes, defined as “the waters of Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario and the connecting river systems of St. Marys, St. Clair including Lake St. Clair, Detroit, Niagara and St. Lawrence at the international boundary or upstream from the point at which this river becomes the international boundary between Canada and the United States, including all open and nearshore waters.”

The Government of Canada works with the Government of Quebec on projects to improve the water quality of the St. Lawrence through the St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011–2026. Further, Quebec participates as an observer to the Great Lakes Executive Committee, established under the 2012 GLWQA to ensure coordination with the St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011–2026.

Jurisdiction/Governance

Commenters recommended that the Government of Ontario be given lead responsibility for the Great Lakes, and that municipalities be given specific roles in implementing the Agreement. 

A commenter recommended that Canada and Ontario use a collaborative governance approach with others to implementing COA.

The Great Lakes are a shared resource and a shared responsibility. For over 40 years, Canada and Ontario have been working together to conserve, restore and protect the Great Lakes. Within COA, each government has taken lead roles based on their jurisdiction and authorities. There are significant opportunities for municipalities to be involved, consistent with their authorities, in implementing commitments under several annexes of the Agreement, including Areas of Concern, Lakewide Management and Science.

The Government of Canada is committed to working with others in a cooperative, coordinated and integrated manner to improve environmental quality in the Great Lakes. Opportunities to enhance the collaboration will be explored during the implementation of the Agreement.

Strategy/Measurable targets/Accountability/Work plans

Commenters suggested that COA include an implementation strategy containing specific information on commitment outcomes, including actions, target dates, budgets and agency responsibilities.

COA contains specific commitments to be achieved within a five-year time frame. Work plans will be developed, as appropriate that will identify projects and actions to be undertaken to achieve commitments. The COA Executive Committee will oversee implementation to ensure that COA commitments are supported by the necessary actions and resources for successful delivery.

Collaboration and capacity building

Commenters raised the importance of enhanced collaboration and capacity building with Great Lakes stakeholders and Aboriginal communities.

Through the 2012 GLWQA, Canada and the United States are committed to engaging the Great Lakes community, including Tribal Governments, First Nations and Métis, in the implementation activities to ensure the successful delivery of the Agreement. In support of this binational commitment, a new Engaging Communities Annex has been added to COA, which highlights how the governments of Canada and Ontario will engage others in Great Lakes activities. Annexes have also been added to COA that outline how First Nations and Métis will be engaged in the implementation of the Agreement.

“Extreme” energy

Commenters recommended that COA include the banning of activities related to “extreme” energy.

The banning of activities is beyond the scope of COA. The Government of Canada is committed to responsible resource development that protects the health of Canadians and their environment.

Land use and urbanization pressures

Commenters recommended that COA address potential impacts to water quality resulting from land use and urbanization pressures expected as a result of population increases.

COA contains a commitment to develop and implement a framework for the assessment and management of nearshore waters. This framework will provide a mechanism for assessing and addressing the combined effects of impacts resulting from a wide range of causes, including land use, urbanization and population increases.

Enforcement

A commenter suggested that Canada and Ontario provide the necessary resources and legislation to enforce regulations that support the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes.

Strong and effective enforcement of Canada’s environmental laws is a cornerstone of the Government of Canada’s commitment to clean air, clean water and the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat; however, the development and enforcement of legislation occurs through established processes external to COA.

Experimental Lakes Area

A commenter recommended that federal funds be allocated to the Experimental Lakes Area to support the science and research in COA, and for restoring fresh water lakes more broadly.

The science required to understand and address issues affecting Great Lakes water quality is supported through a range of Government of Canada programs. Funding support for the Experimental Lakes Area is beyond the scope of COA.

The Government of Canada, in agreement with the Government of Ontario, transferred the Experimental Lakes Area in its entirety to a non-profit subsidiary of the International Institute for Sustainable Development on April 1, 2014. The Experimental Lakes Area will now continue under the management of the International Institute for Sustainable Development and continue to add to the body of knowledge that this site has helped amass over the last 44 years.

Equivalency agreements

A commenter recommended that equivalency agreements be an overarching priority for actions under COA and that Canada and Ontario work toward finalizing an equivalency agreement for wastewater effluent under the Fisheries Act.

COA outlines how the Government of Canada will cooperate and coordinate efforts with the Government of Ontario to improve water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes, and ensure that the two governments work in an integrated fashion with each other and with the Great Lakes community. Where appropriate, the Government of Canada may develop equivalency agreements with the Government of Ontario to reduce regulatory duplication. For the wastewater sector in Ontario, discussions are under way between Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to develop an equivalency agreement under the Fisheries Act for the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations.

Water levels

A commenter recommended that Canada provide funding to restore water levels in lakes Michigan and Huron and in Georgian Bay.

This issue falls beyond the scope of COA.
2. Articles
Summary of CommentResponse

Article I – Definitions

A commenter recommended that the definition of “Chemicals of Concern” be linked to science and exposure-based criteria to be used to designate Chemicals of Concern.

A commenter recommended that the definition of Harmful Pollutants be revised to define "adverse effects" and be sufficiently broad to include chemicals identified under previous COAs.

A commenter recommended that “Toxic Substances” be defined.

The definition of Chemicals of Concern is general so as to allow for a wide range of chemicals to be considered as Chemicals of Concern under COA. The same approach applies to the definition of Harmful Pollutants. Both terms are sufficiently broad so as to allow for chemicals identified as being of concern under previous COAs (e.g., Tier I and II Substances) to be considered under the new Agreement.

During the implementation of the Harmful Pollutants Annex, a process for identifying and designating Chemicals of Concern will be established. The process will be based on the most relevant scientific information available (e.g., monitoring and surveillance data) and will take into consideration other factors such as exposure, hazard and existing risk management controls and activities.

The term "toxic substance" does not appear in COA. As such, a definition is not provided within the Annex. Stakeholders may refer to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 for further information on toxic substances.

Article III – Principles

A commenter recommended that COA include the “ecosystem approach” and “continuous improvement” principles.

Commenters recommended that "in principle" be removed from the description of “polluter pays.”

A commenter recommended that “Pollution Prevention” be revised to strengthen the scope and application with respect to the Harmful Pollutants Annex.

A commenter noted that Virtual Elimination and Zero Discharge are impossible to achieve and set false expectations. Another recommended consideration of exposure and risk and looking at the Stockholm Convention for appropriate definitions in COA.

Another recommended that the principles of Virtual Elimination and Zero Discharge be revised to strengthen their scope and application with respect to the Harmful Pollutants Annex.

The ecosystem approach is a fundamental element of COA. The Agreement recognizes that Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health cannot be achieved by addressing individual threats in isolation, but rather depend upon the application of an ecosystem approach that addresses individually and cumulatively all sources of stress to the Great Lakes.

COA includes the principle of adaptive management, which incorporates continuous improvement.

The Government of Canada concurs that the description of “Polluter Pays” need not include the words “in principle.”

As specified in the Harmful Pollutants Annex, the Government of Canada will implement pollution prevention or control measures in accordance with the principles of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 or other federal Acts.

The principles of virtual elimination and zero discharge are considered under COA in a manner consistent with the 2012 GLWQA. Further, these principles will be applied under COA as appropriate, given that in some cases it is neither practicable nor possible to strive for zero discharge and/or virtual elimination (e.g., naturally occurring chemicals or unintentionally released substances).

Zero discharge (i.e., virtual elimination of releases), while appropriate in some circumstances, is only one of many approaches that can be applied in order to strive for and achieve virtual elimination from the environment. Domestic and international chemicals management regimes may provide examples to be considered for various Chemicals of Concern.

Article IV – Annexes

Commenters supported the alignment of COA with the GLWQA wherever possible, and the addition of the Promoting Innovation, Engaging Communities, Engaging First Nations and Engaging Métis annexes.

COA has been expanded to address the critical issues areas identified under the 2012 GLWQA: Nutrients, Harmful Pollutants, Discharges from Vessels, Areas of Concern, Lakewide Management, Aquatic Invasive Species, Habitat and Species, Groundwater Quality, Climate Change Impacts, and Science. The Government of Canada will strive to maximize efficiencies and coordination while implementing both COA and the 2012 GLWQA.

The Government of Canada is pleased to highlight the importance of engaging members of the Great Lakes community, First Nations and Métis in the implementation of COA.

Article V – Administration of the Agreement

A number of commenters recommended that Great Lakes partners be allowed to participate in COA decision-making (for example, by expanding COA Executive Committee, Management Committee, and/or Annex Sub-committee membership, and by establishing a public advisory body).

A commenter noted that the COA Executive Committee “respond to the requests” of the annex subcommittees rather than “oversee” them.

A commenter recommended that a process be developed to formalize communication between the COA annexes.

COA includes many opportunities for engagement of the Great Lakes community in decision-making and taking action to restore, protect and conserve Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health. As highlighted in the Engaging Communities Annex, the Government of Canada will seek opportunities to engage and collaborate with stakeholders and others during the implementation of the Agreement.

The COA Executive Committee will bring together senior representatives of all departments, ministries or agencies of the Parties who are signatories to the Agreement to oversee implementation and to respond to issues raised to the attention of the COA Executive Committee by Annex co-leads.

Collaboration and communication between annexes will be an important consideration in the implementation of the Agreement. Formalized processes for facilitating communication will be developed as required.

Article VI – Reporting

Commenters noted that Canada and Ontario report annually on progress under COA, using a consistent set of measures. Another recommended that reports be made available to the public, presented to the Legislature and Parliament, and be accompanied by the corresponding hearings from these committees.

A commenter suggested that COA evaluations and assessments be made available to the public.

COA includes a number of commitments to report both on progress toward implementation of the Agreement, and on environmental factors, such as the status of and trends in water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. As outlined in Article VI, Canada and Ontario will report on progress under COA in a manner that aligns with reporting requirements under the 2012 GLWQA.

The Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have committed in the 2012 GLWQA to preparing a binational Progress Report of the Parties to document actions taken both domestically and binationally on a triennial basis. The first progress report will be provided to the public before the next Great Lakes Public Forum, expected to take place in Fall 2016.

Reporting to Parliament occurs through Departmental Performance Reports, which are produced by each of the federal departments that participate in COA.

Article VII – Resources

Comments were received regarding the need for adequate funding to support COA priorities, and for increased financial commitments to specific actions such as protecting and restoring wetlands; increasing the coverage of, and consistency among, climate and hydrometric networks; monitoring and surveillance of Great Lakes chemicals of concern; and accelerating the delisting of Areas of Concern.

The Government of Canada is committed to providing the resources needed to implement the Agreement, as well as to creating opportunities for others to contribute resources to achieving the Purpose of the Agreement.

The Government of Canada allocates funding to national programs that will benefit the Great Lakes and Great Lakes region as well as specific initiatives dedicated to delivering on Great Lakes priorities. Federal departments and agencies have confirmed that COA commitments are achievable within current resource allocations. Once COA is finalized, multi-year work plans will provide an estimate of the resources allocated by each signatory to deliver on COA commitments.

National initiatives that help protect Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health include the Chemicals Management Plan, which is aimed at reducing the risks posed by chemicals to Canadians and their environment. Great Lakes specific initiatives of the Government of Canada are as follows: Budget 2010 provided $8 million per year, ongoing, to the Great Lakes Action Plan to support Canada’s role in Areas of Concern remediation efforts; Budget 2011 provided $16 million over 4 years to address the presence of algae and improve the nearshore health of the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative; and Budget 2012 allocated $29 million over 5 years to renew and expand the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-up Fund. Another $48.9 million over 8 years has been dedicated to sediment remediation in Areas of Concern, which includes $46.3 million for the remediation of Randle Reef in the Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern. In 2012, $15 million over 5 years was allocated to help protect Canada’s Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp.

Article IX – Amending the Agreement

A commenter recommended removing “as appropriate” from “The Parties commit to engaging the Great Lakes community, as appropriate, when amending the Agreement.”

The Government of Canada is committed to engaging the Great Lakes community in the implementation of COA, as well as in consideration of any substantive amendments to the Agreement, should they occur.
3. Nutrients Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Nutrient targets

Commenters recommended caps on nutrient inputs at levels needed to protect ecosystems, and recommended that COA include substantive reporting on nutrient loading and concentrations that are related to ecological outcomes.

As outlined in the COA, the Government of Canada is committed to the development of science-based phosphorus concentration and load reduction targets for Lake Erie by 2016. Agreement on a binational approach to monitoring and reporting on phosphorus concentrations and loads will be sought at that time.

Adoption of GLWQA timelines and targets

A commenter recommended that COA adopt 2012 GLWQA timelines and targets for phosphorus while more stringent targets are being developed.

Action under COA will support commitments and timelines outlined in the 2012 GLWQA.

Geographic scope

A number of commenters recommended that COA acknowledge and include consideration of areas beyond Lake Erie, particularly Lake Ontario, which is experiencing the negative impacts of excessive amounts of algal growth in the nearshore area. Another commenter recommended that initial implementation efforts focus on watersheds contributing the most phosphorus to the Great Lakes, such as those in the western Lake Erie basin and in the Bay of Quinte in Lake Ontario.

A commenter recommended that the Parties commit to determine the cause of significant waterfowl and fish die-offs on Nottawasaga Bay (in Georgian Bay).

Early efforts to understand and address issues related to nearshore water quality, aquatic ecosystem health, and harmful and nuisance algae will focus on Lake Erie, as it is the lake most at risk. Scientific data and policy approaches that come about as a result of these efforts will be transferable to other Great Lakes and aquatic ecosystems elsewhere in Canada. The Government of Canada is committed to working to protect all of the Great Lakes, and will apply lessons learned in Lake Erie to the protection of lakes Ontario, Huron and Superior.

Fish and waterfowl die-offs occur throughout the Great Lakes from time to time and can be caused by any number of factors, including those that are physical (e.g., temperature, oxygen level), chemical (e.g., spill) or biological (e.g., disease). The Fish Health Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which includes federal, provincial, and state fish health experts from Canada and the United States, tracks fish disease outbreaks and works collaboratively to identify unusual occurrences.

Science

A commenter recommended continuing monitoring and leading-edge science to better understand phosphorus to make meaningful reductions.

The Government of Canada is committed to continued scientific research and monitoring to improve our understanding of the contributing factors and underlying processes that result in algal blooms.

Stakeholder consultations

A commenter recommended that the federal government consult with key stakeholders to ensure that targets are achievable and consider all contributing sources, so that governments are not met with strong resistance when 2016 targets are introduced and 2018 domestic plans are developed.

As outlined in COA, the Government of Canada is committed to establishing binational phosphorus concentrations and load reduction targets for Lake Erie by 2016. Targets will be based on best available science and input from the Great Lakes community.

Domestic action plans

A commenter recommended that governments ensure that domestic action plans are based on a thorough assessment of the costs to stakeholders and the relative effectiveness in terms of reducing nutrients entering the lakes.

The Government of Canada is committed to exploring all options for achieving necessary reductions of phosphorus discharges to Lake Erie, taking into account social and economic factors.

Adaptive management approach

A commenter recommended that COA include an adaptive management approach to ensure that intervention efforts are responsive to new data and information.

Adaptive management is a key principle of COA and is essential to the effective management of phosphorus in the Great Lakes.

Agricultural practices

Commenters recommended the adoption of sustainable farming practices and that Canada and Ontario provide short-term incentive funding to promote sustainable farming to address nutrient runoff.

The Government of Canada is committed to helping the agriculture sector contribute to the quality of our water resources in the Great Lakes Basin. In order to maintain a sustainable agriculture sector, the Government of Canada introduced, in partnership with provinces and territories, environmental farm planning programs, in 2003, through which farmers can assess environmental risks and benefits on their farm. Incentives are available to help producers implement beneficial management practices, including nutrient management practices. The Government of Canada also undertakes scientific research to support decision making and foster innovative practices and technologies that enhance sustainable farm management.

Low-impact development

Commenters recommended that emphasis be placed on the identification and removal of barriers to the uptake of low-impact development and retrofit techniques, and that COA detail how low-impact development will be supported.

The Government of Canada is committed to exploring all options to address the problem of harmful and nuisance algal blooms.

Urban non-point sources

A commenter recommended that COA include measures to address urban non-point sources of excess nutrients (e.g., combined sewer systems).

The Government of Canada is committed to exploring all options to address the problem of harmful and nuisance algal blooms.

Wetlands and other green infrastructure

Commenters recommended that COA include actions to encourage effective practices and alternative approaches to reducing nutrient loadings, such as using wetlands to reduce peak stormwater and other forms of green infrastructure.

A commenter recommended that COA include time-bounded commitments and funding to increase coastal wetland areas in western Lake Erie.

The Government of Canada is committed to exploring all options to address the problem of harmful and nuisance algal blooms.

Funding for water infrastructure

A commenter recommended that the Parties provide long-term and sustainable infrastructure funding to municipalities for water infrastructure asset management, including stormwater management projects.

Although the vast majority of public infrastructure in Canada falls under provincial, territorial or municipal jurisdiction, the Government of Canada makes significant strategic investments in infrastructure that contribute to economic growth, job creation, a cleaner environment and strong, prosperous communities.

The New Building Canada Plan, which was officially launched in March 2014, includes over $53 billion for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure over 10 years. Of the $53 billion under the New Building Canada Plan, $47 billion consists of new funding for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure, starting in 2014–2015, through three key funds:

  • The Community Improvement Fund: $32.2 billion over 10 years, consisting of an indexed and expanded Gas Tax Fund and the incremental Goods and Services Tax Rebate for municipalities to build water and wastewater infrastructure, roads, public transit and other community infrastructure across Canada.
  • The New Building Canada Fund: $14 billion over 10 years, in support of major economic infrastructure projects of national, regional and local significance, including $1 billion in funding dedicated to municipalities with fewer than 100 000 residents through the Small Communities Fund.
  • A renewed P3 Canada Fund: $1.25 billion over 5 years, to continue supporting innovative ways to build infrastructure projects faster and provide better value for Canadian taxpayers through public-private partnerships.

Water and wastewater infrastructure, including stormwater management infrastructure, continue to be eligible investment categories under the New Building Canada Plan. Projects under the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component of the New Building Canada Fund will be jointly identified between the Government of Canada and provincial or territorial partners. Under this program, provinces and territories will determine priorities among the projects that are proposed to them, and bring these forward for discussion with the Government of Canada.

Consistency with Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations

A commenter recommended that actions by Canada and Ontario maintain consistency with regulations and standards such as those established under the 2012 federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that efforts under COA are consistent with existing regulations and standards.

Link between excessive nutrients and toxicity

A commenter recommended that COA recognize the connections between excessive nutrients and toxicity as a result of harmful algal blooms.

Toxins released by some forms of algae are a major area of study and an important consideration in the setting of targets to address algae development. The Government of Canada is committed to working collaboratively to maximize the delivery of commitments under COA. COA includes a management framework to ensure that cross-annex topics are addressed effectively and efficiently.

Partnerships with conservation authorities

A commenter recommended that conservation authorities be recognized for their role of partnering with municipalities to manage stormwater and promote low-impact development.

The Government of Canada recognizes the important role conservation authorities play in managing phosphorus inputs to the Great Lakes and other issues affecting Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.

Climate change

A commenter recommended that the Annex on Climate Change Impacts address the rise in the occurrence of blue-green algae blooms that are not a result of human activity, but coming from natural sources, and likely associated with climate change impacts.

The Government of Canada is committed to improving knowledge and understanding of all factors involved in the increasing occurrence of algae in Lake Erie, including the impact of climate change.
4. Harmful Pollutants Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Cumulative effects

A commenter recommended that all commitments for action on Chemicals of Concern address the synergistic and cumulative effects of these chemicals.

Reviewing and addressing cumulative impacts of Chemicals of Concern, while not explicitly identified, will be considered, as appropriate, during the implementation of COA.

Microplastics

A commenter recommended that COA include a commitment to take action to address microplastic particle pollution in the Great Lakes.

The Government of Canada recognizes the relevancy of the issue of microplastics to the Great Lakes, and research is ongoing to enhance our understanding of the impacts of microplastics in the Great Lakes.

Role of stakeholders

Commenters recommended that explicit language be included in the Annex to describe the role and contribution of public interest stakeholders in annex implementation.

Through the Canada–Ontario Chemicals Management Committee, the Government of Canada will engage and utilize the expertise of the Great Lakes community, which includes public interest stakeholders, in order to achieve the goals of the Annex. The specific roles and contributions are expected to evolve over time and will vary with implementation needs.

Identifying Chemicals of Concern

Commenters submitted a variety of recommendations on the identification of Chemicals of Concern, including that examples of Chemicals of Concern be included in the Agreement; that chemicals be designated using sound science and risk-based criteria, consistent with Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan; that COA outline the process and criteria by which chemicals will be identified; that there be consistency between chemicals designated under COA and those chemicals to be designated as Chemicals of Mutual Concern under the 2012 GLWQA; that all Tier I and Tier II Substances be designated by default as Chemicals of Concern under COA; and that health and environmental public interest organizations and other stakeholders be involved in identifying harmful pollutants.

The Government of Canada is committed to establishing a dynamic process for identifying and reviewing Chemicals of Concern on an ongoing basis. This approach will enhance our ability to respond to emerging chemical issues in the Great Lakes and focus efforts and resources on the most pressing chemical issues at a given point in time.

Using information and data generated through existing programs, including the Chemicals Management Plan, the Parties will be identifying Chemicals of Concern by applying a science-based weight of evidence approach that will make use of the most relevant scientific information available (e.g., Great Lakes monitoring, surveillance and other data or information) and will take into consideration other factors such as exposure, hazard, existing risk management controls and activities.

As such, Chemicals of Concern designated under this annex could include a diverse range of chemicals, including Tier I and Tier II Substances and newly assessed harmful substances, pharmaceuticals and/or personal care products.

Substances designated as Chemicals of Mutual Concern under the 2012 GLWQA will also be Chemicals of Concern under COA. Other Chemicals of Concern may also be identified as part of the process as outlined in the Harmful Pollutant Annex. Additional priorities will be determined through the implementation of COA.

The Government of Canada is committed to developing and publishing a Status Report on Tier I and Tier II Substances, to reviewing current levels and trends of these legacy substances in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem, and to reviewing activities that have already been undertaken to manage these chemicals. This Status Report is intended to serve as a key piece of information in support of the designation of Chemicals of Concern under the Harmful Pollutants Annex.

Stakeholder engagement is a core principle of COA. As implementation progresses, opportunities, using existing mechanisms, will be provided for stakeholders to contribute to the work delivered under the Harmful Pollutants Annex. Moreover, through the Canada–Ontario Chemicals Management Committee, the Government of Canada will engage and utilize the expertise of the Great Lakes community, which includes public interest stakeholders, in order to achieve the goals of the Annex.

Taking action on Chemicals of Concern

Commenters submitted a variety of recommendations related to taking action on Chemicals of Concern, including that “as appropriate” be deleted from Goal 2 in the Harmful Pollutants Annex; that governments clarify who they will be collaborating with; that governments commit to review and evaluate progress toward the implementation of binational strategies; that Virtual Elimination and Zero Discharge be re-established as goals of the Harmful Pollutants Annex, and that specific timeframes for the development of related management actions be included; that life cycle approaches to addressing Chemicals of Concern be developed and implemented; that governments focus on the use of strategies aimed at eliminating toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes basin; that concepts such as best management practices be defined; and that a five-year timeline be targeted for the virtual elimination of harmful pollutants targeted under this annex.

Actions to be undertaken on Chemicals of Concern to reduce or eliminate their releases will depend on the analysis of the impact they are having on the Great Lakes environment, as well as on the suite of federal, provincial and other relevant actions already in place to manage these chemicals. Therefore, the appropriate actions to be undertaken may vary in nature for individual Chemicals of Concern.

The Government of Canada will coordinate and cooperate with Ontario on use and release reduction activities for Chemicals of Concern. In some instances, coordination and collaboration with others may be needed to deliver specific activities. Federal activities related to Chemicals of Concern will be delivered under the authorities and programs of the national chemicals management program.

Within COA, Canada has committed to “review” progress towards implementation (e.g., what has been done) and also to “evaluate” progress towards implementation (e.g., performance of the strategy and identifying "gaps").

Within COA, Canada has committed to promote and support life-cycle management and the use of safer alternatives. Additionally, best management practices and technologies will be considered when developing and implementing activities to reduce or eliminate releases of Chemicals of Concern into the Great Lakes.

The principles of virtual elimination and zero discharge will be applied under COA as appropriate. In some cases, it is neither practicable nor possible to strive for zero discharge and/or virtual elimination (e.g., naturally occurring chemicals or unintentionally released substances). Zero discharge (i.e., virtual elimination of releases) is only one of many approaches that can be applied in order to strive for and achieve virtual elimination.

Stakeholder engagement in developing environmental quality criteria

One commenter recommended that fulsome stakeholder consultation take place when developing environmental quality criteria for Chemicals of Concern.

Stakeholder engagement is a core principle of COA. Opportunities will be provided through existing mechanisms for stakeholders to contribute to the work delivered under the COA Harmful Pollutants Annex.

Canada–Ontario Chemicals Management Committee

One commenter suggested that the Agreement include detail on the membership of the Canada–Ontario Chemicals Management Committee.

As COA implementation progresses, a governance structure for the COA Harmful Pollutants Annex will be developed, including a Terms of Reference for the Canada–Ontario Chemicals Management Committee. The Government of Canada has committed to engage and utilize the expertise of the Great Lakes community, which includes public interest stakeholders, in order to achieve the goals of the Annex.

Confidential business information

Commenters urged caution over the sharing of confidential business information during the implementation of COA.

The Government of Canada recognizes the sensitivity surrounding the sharing of confidential business information. In implementing the Agreement, Canada will explore the sharing of confidential business information in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and in a manner that protects the information.

Monitoring, surveillance and research

Commenters recommended that the Parties support enhanced monitoring and biomonitoring of the effects of toxic chemicals on fish, wildlife and human health; that COA include a provision to develop a Great Lakes–specific human biomonitoring initiative; and that financial commitments for monitoring, surveillance and research on chemicals in the Great Lakes be increased.

Monitoring of chemicals in the Great Lakes remains an integral part of the Government of Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan.

Within COA, the Government of Canada has committed to undertake and coordinate science activities in order to identify chemicals that could become Chemicals of Concern. This early warning approach to chemicals is consistent with the principles of precaution and prevention.

Monitoring, surveillance and/or other research activities for Chemicals of Concern identified under the COA Harmful Pollutants Annex will be undertaken, or will continue, when determined appropriate.

The Government of Canada has a comprehensive national biomonitoring program, which takes into consideration issues of relevance to the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes pollution report

A commenter recommended that the Parties commit to an annual publication of a Great Lakes Basin Pollution Report to document the use, release and transfer of pollution in the region.

The Government of Canada provides the public with access to sound information on pollutant releases and transfers in Canada, including in the Great Lakes region, through the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI).

The NPRI is Canada’s legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases (to air, water and land), disposals and transfers for recycling. The inventory is updated annually and is a key tool for identifying and monitoring sources of pollution in Canada.

Additionally, through the Canada–Ontario Chemicals Management Committee, the Government of Canada has committed to sharing relevant information with the Great Lakes community, as appropriate, on the uses and releases of chemicals collected under the chemicals management program.

Importance of protecting drinking water sources from spills

A commenter recommended that COA reference Ontario’s Clean Water Act, 2006 and Source Protection Plan policies directed at protecting source drinking water from threats related to spills.

The Government of Canada agrees that joint action on spill prevention, response and recovery efforts are important contributors to the protection of drinking water sources.

Prevention of spills

A commenter recommended a stronger commitment to prevent spills from occurring; improved coordination and rapid response to spills; more transparent communication between transportation and energy companies and municipalities; and the establishment of a financial compensation fund for rail and pipeline spills.

The Government of Canada agrees that prevention is essential to a successful emergency management regime, and Government of Canada regulations are in place that require industry to take preventative actions to protect the environment.

Effective coordination between Canada and Ontario on spills prevention and rapid response is in place. Ongoing communication is important as we strive for continuous improvement, as reflected in the Agreement.

The establishment of compensation funds is beyond the scope of COA. Liability and compensation regimes for pipelines and rail transport are addressed by the Government of Canada on a Canada-wide basis.

Comprehensive risk assessment of the transport of oil

A commenter recommended that COA include a comprehensive risk assessment of the multiple modes of transportation of oil in and around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. 

Various modes of transportation are used to move crude oil between, around, and near the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. By far, the largest volumes of oil are moved by pipelines. The safety record of pipelines in Canada that are regulated by the National Energy Board is excellent. Currently, 99.999% of the crude oil and petroleum products shipped by federally-regulated pipelines arrive safely, and 100% of the liquids spilled by these pipelines over the last three years (2011–2013) was completely recovered.

While Canada’s pipeline safety record is strong, the government is working to improve it, pursuing a goal of zero spills. The Government of Canada’s Plan for Responsible Resource Development, announced in 2012, strengthened environmental protection, improved the efficiency of the regulatory processes and enhanced engagement with Aboriginal groups. Ongoing improvements to the Plan will also further enhance Canada’s world-class pipeline and marine safety regimes. For example, on May 14, 2014, the government announced new measures to further enhance Canada’s world-class pipeline safety regime. These measures are built around three pillars of incident prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation. These measures also build upon previous initiatives to enshrine the “polluter pays” principle in law; improve the disclosure of pipeline safety documents; implement administrative monetary penalties; and increase the number of National Energy Board inspections and audits.

Similarly, the Government of Canada is acting on recommendations of the independent Tanker Safety Expert Panel to strengthen Canada’s tanker safety system. These measures also build on the three pillars of Canada’s world-class tanker safety system: prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation. The government is also renewing its ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal communities to foster their participation and share their knowledge and skills in oil spill prevention, preparedness and response.

Transport Canada is leading a Canada-wide risk assessment to determine the national risks associated with ship-source spills and to create a way of comparing the risks between regions of Canada. An abstract of the national risk assessment of marine oil spills south of the 60th parallel may be found on Transport Canada’s website.

Environment Canada participates in federal environmental assessments for pipeline projects in Ontario that are regulated by the National Energy Board, and may provide technical and scientific advice on spill prevention when applicable.

Spills-related stakeholder consultations

A commenter recommended consultation with industry before implementing recommendations from the emergency response and spills reports to ensure consistency with commercial navigation operations.

The Government of Canada will meet with interested stakeholders to discuss how recommendations of the emergency response and spills reports identified in COA could implicate commercial navigation operations. 

Sewage treatment research and development

Commenters recommended that the Parties promote the use of advanced water treatment technologies in sewage treatment and water supply plants, and that COA include commitments to research the presence of emerging contaminants (e.g., nuclear medicines and pharmaceuticals) in sewage treatment plant effluent.

Through the lakewide management process, the Government of Canada will seek opportunities to promote the reduction of discharges of emerging and conventional contaminants from wastewater treatment plants, stormwater and rural domestic septic systems.

COA includes a commitment to undertake and coordinate science activities, which could include research, monitoring and/or surveillance, in order to provide early warning for chemicals that could become Chemicals of Concern in the Great Lakes basin.

5. Discharges from Vessels Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Ballast water

A commenter suggested that ballast water exchange is insufficient, and recommended that mandatory ballast water treatment regulations be put in place.

A commenter cautioned against the duplication of current initiatives and the development of additional regulatory fragmentation between Canada and the United States.

In 2010, the Government of Canada ratified the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004. This convention will enter into force one year after it is ratified by countries representing 35% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage. The Convention will require vessels entering Canada to strictly limit the number of organisms in discharged ballast water according to an accepted international timeline.

The Government of Canada’s goal is for binationally and internationally compatible ballast water requirements that are fair, practicable and protective. The Government of Canada concurs that related commitments in the Discharges from Vessels and Aquatic Invasive Species Annexes to further reduce the risk of introduction or spread of aquatic invasive species via ships could be harmonized to make clear the Government of Canada’s commitment to consistent standards and to the Convention.

Vessel discharge prohibition

A commenter recommended regulations prohibiting discharges of all substances from vessels in the Great Lakes.

Transport Canada is responsible for the implementation of Annex 5 “Discharges from Vessels” under the 2012 GLWQA and will implement this annex in COA. This allows Transport Canada to continue its commitment to prevent ship-source discharges including oil, garbage, wastewater and sewage, and to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species through biofouling and ballast water. Transport Canada regulates threats to water quality using the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations as well as the Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations.

Alignment with regulations

A commenter recommended alignment between the Discharges from Vessels Annex of the 2012 GLWQA with the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations.

Transport Canada is responsible for the implementation of Annex 5 “Discharges from Vessels” under the 2012 GLWQA and will implement this annex in COA. This allows Transport Canada to continue its commitment to prevent ship-source discharges including oil, garbage, wastewater and sewage, and to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species through biofouling and ballast water. Transport Canada regulates threats to water quality using the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations as well as the Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations.
6. Areas of Concern Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Hamilton Harbour/Randle Reef

Commenters recommended that the Parties commit to making significant progress on the Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Management Project; and that the Parties commit to delisting Hamilton Harbour as an Area of Concern (AOC).

The Government of Canada has committed to making significant progress toward delisting the Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern, including the implementation of the Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project. This commitment is reflected in COA under Goal 2 of the Areas of Concern Annex. While these efforts will result in significant environmental improvement, they will not result in delisting of the Hamilton Harbour AOC within the timeframe of this Agreement.

Analysis and tracking of progress

A commenter recommended that COA include a detailed analysis of ongoing problems in Great Lakes AOCs and track long-term trends.

COA contains a number of commitments to monitor and analyze trends in environmental quality in AOCs. Pursuant to the 2012 GLWQA, the Government of Canada will report on status and trends in AOCs every three years.

Completion of Remedial Action Plans

Commenters recommended that Canadian Great Lakes AOC Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) be quickly completed, and that the Agreement include the commitment to take appropriate action to delist all of the Canadian AOCs within a reasonable timeframe.

RAPs are in place for all Canadian AOCs. Local RAP teams use these plans to guide actions to restore beneficial use impairments and achieve restoration targets that have been established for AOC delisting. Given that some AOCs require substantially greater restoration actions and/or recovery times than others, the approach taken in the AOC Annex has been to establish priorities through the identification of Goal 1 and Goal 2 AOCs.

Resources

Commenters recommended that COA include a clear statement of the resources to be offered by each level of government to each AOC and a timeline for RAP completion; that COA include funding to accelerate the delisting of AOCs, particularly dedicated, long-term and sustainable funding to municipalities and other partners to implement water quality improvement infrastructure projects; that Canada and Ontario provide local municipalities’ and industries’ share of funding to upgrade sewage and stormwater in the St. Clair and Toronto AOCs.

A commenter recommended that funding for the Canada Centre for Inland Water’s work be restored; laid-off scientists be rehired; and the federal government recommit to the study of topics related to Hamilton Harbour and the Great Lakes more broadly.

Responsibility for restoring and maintaining a healthy environment is shared among all levels of government and between governments and the private sector. Through COA, Canada is playing a leadership role in identifying and assessing causes of degradation and coordinating efforts to restore environmental quality; however, success in remediating AOCs requires participation of other levels of government and application of the polluter pays principle, where appropriate.

COA includes a commitment to complete remedial actions in five Canadian AOCs over five years while making significant progress on other remaining Canadian AOCs.

Resourcing of remedial actions in each AOC is determined on an annual basis, based on consideration of environment factors and input from local communities.

Science is an important element of the AOC remediation process and is essential to verifying restoration of beneficial uses of the environment prior to delisting. The Government of Canada continues to support the science requirements of the AOC process.

Delisting

Commenters recommended that AOCs not be delisted if delisting targets have not been met; that governments work closely in obtaining local stakeholder support in delisting an AOC; and that ongoing monitoring be supported to protect significant investments to date and ensure that delisted status is maintained.

Delisting targets are established with local community input and help to guide the remediation process in each AOC. The decision as to whether it is appropriate to delist an AOC considers the extent to which delisting targets have been achieved, and other input.

Environment Canada works closely with Ontario, local governments and the local community in AOCs to develop and implement RAPs. Local RAP teams, comprised of representatives of the federal and provincial governments, the municipality and conservation authority as well as local industry, academia, and the public, work to ensure local input is considered in assessing a proposed delisting or Area of Concern in Recovery designation.

Environmental monitoring and surveillance activities are routinely conducted. Once an AOC is delisted, water quality and other environmental factors will be monitored and assessed through these efforts. In some instances, where circumstances of delisting an AOC warrant it, the final AOC RAP will identify the requirement for specific additional monitoring.

Community organizations

Commenters recommended that community organizations, such as the Bay Area Restoration Council in Hamilton be established and supported in AOCs.

A number of community organizations are currently involved in remedial efforts in Canadian AOCs. These organizations play an active role in implementing the RAPs in their areas. Others are involved in implementing specific projects that result in measurable environmental benefits, and are often supported by Environment Canada’s Great Lakes Sustainability Fund. The Government of Canada will continue to provide opportunities for community organizations to participate and support the remediation of AOCs.

Beaches

A commenter recommended better monitoring for E.coli at beaches.

Monitoring of E.coli at beaches is typically the responsibility of the health unit of the local municipality.

Environment Canada is addressing the problem of beach contamination in AOCs as part of ongoing remedial actions, where warranted. These efforts are reflected in COA.

Sediment management strategies

A commenter recommended that COA include the timing associated with the development and implementation of sediment management strategies.

COA commitments concerning contaminated sediment management will be fulfilled within the timeframe of the Agreement. Greater specificity is not possible at this time.

Re-designation of beneficial uses

A commenter recommended that COA clearly state the number of beneficial uses that are targeted to be re-designated as not impaired.

The Government of Canada concurs that beneficial use impairment re-designation targets be included in COA. 

Post-AOC

A commenter recommended that the Parties consider what type of program will succeed the AOC program and recommended that the concept of “geographically identified areas” be integrated into the next COA.

As outlined in the COA Lakewide Management Annex, the Government of Canada is committed to collaborating with Ontario and others on the development of a Great Lakes nearshore framework that will support the identification of priority nearshore areas in the Great Lakes that are or may become subject to high stress or that are of high ecological value.
7. Lakewide Management Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Community participation

A commenter recommended that interested community groups be identified and given the opportunity to work as part of the lakewide management structure.

The Government of Canada is committed to engaging Great Lakes communities in the implementation of COA. As implementation progresses, opportunities will be explored to identify and engage interested community groups in the lakewide management process.

Wetlands

A commenter recommended that, in the establishment of binational Lake Ecosystem Objectives, governments continue to assess the state of wetlands and identify wetland-related science priorities as part of a broader assessment of ecosystem health for each Canadian Great Lake.

Establishment of wetland-related Lake Ecosystem Objectives will be considered. Science priorities for wetlands will be considered on an ongoing basis during implementation of COA.

Nearshore

Commenters recommended that results related to the nearshore framework explicitly reference drinking water (i.e., beyond the focus on ecological health), with a stronger link to Source Water Protection Plans; that COA include definitive actions by Canada and Ontario to protect, restore and improve water quality in the nearshore (coastal zone) areas of the Great Lakes; that a timeline for achieving an overall picture of a healthy nearshore be included in COA; and, to prevent duplication of effort, that the Parties audit monitoring programs and science information held by others before undertaking research and monitoring of the nearshore.

Through the 2012 GLWQA and COA, the Government of Canada has committed to engaging the Great Lakes community in the development of a framework to assess nearshore areas of the Great Lakes, to develop a comprehensive evaluation of nearshore waters, to identify areas under significant stress or of significant ecological value, and to coordinate action by relevant jurisdictions and entities for their restoration and protection.

As the framework has not yet been developed, it is premature to commit to actions beyond those identified in COA or to timelines for completion of the assessment process.

Beaches

A commenter recommended that instead of issuing regular public accounts on the number of days beaches are open and safe, resources be re-prioritized to better improve beach water quality and beach ecosystems.

The Government of Canada places a high priority on protecting water quality. Efforts taken under other annexes to manage nutrients and reduce contaminant loadings from stormwater and wastewater collection and treatment facilities will improve public beach water quality and beach ecosystems. The commitment to provide regular public accounts of how often the beaches are open and safe will help publicly track the effectiveness of actions being taken.

Monitoring

A commenter highlighted the need for real-time "in-lake" monitoring data to track lake circulation and water quality characteristics, as well as the need to further develop Lake Ontario circulation and water quality simulation models, so that the necessary information is available in the event of a spill.

The Government of Canada is committed to leading the assessment and reporting on the state of the Great Lakes and its connecting channels; and undertaking science and monitoring surveys, inventories and studies to support these assessments and resulting management actions. COA includes a commitment for the Parties to regularly identify Great Lakes science priorities. The need for enhanced monitoring techniques will be considered through this priority-setting process.

Linkages between watershed-based management and Lakewide Action and Management Plans

A commenter recommended that the Parties continue to strengthen linkages between watershed-based planning and management undertaken by municipalities and conservation authorities, and the Lakewide Action and Management Plans.

The Government of Canada will continue to work with stakeholders, including municipalities and conservation authorities, to strengthen linkages between watershed-based planning and management and Lakewide Action and Management Plans.

Georgian Bay

A commenter recommended that a separate plan be developed for Georgian Bay with adequate citizen and stakeholder involvement, as it is ecologically different from Lake Huron.

The Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan will provide a mechanism to assess and report on the state of the Lake Huron Ecosystem inclusive of Georgian Bay. The plan will identify science and management priorities, conduct studies and outreach activities, and identify the need for and facilitate further action.

Through COA, the Government of Canada has committed to actions that address current and future threats to Georgian Bay and to involve the public and stakeholders through the Lake Huron–Georgian Bay Framework for Community Action and the Southern Georgian Bay Shoreline Initiative.

Environment Canada recognizes the importance of Georgian Bay and its ecological significance. In Budget 2012, $29 million was committed over five years to the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-up Fund. Local stakeholders participate on Technical and Public Advisory Committees to review and recommend projects for Georgian Bay that address science, aquatic habitat and species conservation, and the reduction of point and non-point source pollution.

Urban growth in western Lake Ontario basin

A commenter recommended that COA include a commitment to engage with municipalities, conservation authorities and others to develop an informed and visionary strategy to proactively manage urban growth and retrofit urbanized landscapes within the western end of Lake Ontario.

The Government of Canada is committed to working collaboratively with local municipalities, conservation authorities and communities in the implementation of COA, where appropriate. The issues and priority actions surrounding the urban landscapes on the western end of Lake Ontario will be assessed and addressed in many management and decision-making initiatives undertaken under COA, including the Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan, working with the Western Lake Ontario collaborative, the development of a nearshore framework, and the promotion of priority actions for municipalities to reduce excessive nutrient loadings to the Great Lakes.
8. Aquatic Invasive Species Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Support for commitments

Many commenters were supportive of the commitments, particularly those related to early detection and rapid response initiatives, improved understanding and tools to respond to aquatic invasive species (AIS), and engagement of the Great Lakes community to prevent, detect, respond to and manage AIS.

The Government of Canada has been working collaboratively with Ontario to address AIS for a number of years, and COA commitments reflect efforts to work together and with others to protect the waters of the Great Lakes from AIS. These collaborative efforts include planning and delivering early detection, response actions, when and where such responses are possible, and science to improve understanding and develop new tools. Outreach and engagement with the Great Lakes community are key components of efforts to detect and manage AIS and are being pursued through partnerships.

Collaboration with third parties

Commenters recommended that Canada and Ontario collaborate with and fund third parties to help deliver commitments.

The Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, a new collaboration among the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Canadian Forest Service Branch of Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is a valuable new initiative to help achieve COA commitments on AIS. The Invasive Species Centre is engaged in targeted activities to support the Asian carp program and AIS outreach and engagement more broadly. Similarly, the Government of Canada is actively working with other partners, like the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, to deliver on COA commitments.

Management plans for high-risk species

A commenter recommended that peer-reviewed, validated and tested management plans for high-risk species be developed and that these be updated and disseminated.

The Government of Canada continues to develop, review and revise its plans for action on species and pathways. Management and response plans have been developed and reviewed for high-risk species and pathways. These plans are based on risk assessment principles and incident command practices, and enable the most effective possible response and actions to achieve prevention or, where possible, control. The Sea Lamprey Control Program is an example of focused and extensive management planning for most high-impact established invasive species. The proposed regulations under the Fisheries Act will provide an important basis for affecting changes in behaviours to further improve the prevention of accidental or purposeful introduction of invasive species.

Sharing of information on AIS

A commenter recommended that the Parties use and share, to the greatest extent possible, the wealth of existing information on individual AIS and risk assessment methods.

All efforts will be made to make the best use of available understanding about individual AIS and about the science of risk assessment. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is a leader in the application of risk assessments to the threats of AIS. That history and efforts are chronicled in the work of the Centre for Expertise in Aquatic Risk Assessment and is exemplified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s leadership in the recent and new ongoing international ecological and economic risk assessments for Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

Regulate best practices

A commenter recommended that plans and best practices for high-risk AIS be enshrined in regulation.

The Government of Canada has been actively pursuing AIS legislation and regulation. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is drafting new national AIS regulations under the Fisheries Act, in consultation with provincial/territorial governments and stakeholders. These proposed new comprehensive regulations will allow for high-risk species, such as Asian carp, to be listed for prohibition from import, transport and possession, and will also include authorities related to control and eradication. As a next step, the regulatory proposal will be published in the Canada Gazette for broader stakeholder consultation.

Enforcement for high-risk AIS

A commenter recommended that deterrents, enforcement and penalties be considered for infractions related to high-risk AIS.

The new regulations proposed under the Fisheries Act will provide the basis for deterrents, penalties and enforcement to help change behaviours that might contribute to AIS introductions. The clarity provided by new regulations will help form the basis of improved education and outreach, further enhancing public awareness.

AIS at the watershed scale

A commenter recommended that support is needed for early detection and rapid response to AIS at the watershed scale.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is actively working with its partners in the Province of Ontario and in the United States to plan and deliver early detection and rapid response, where such responses might be possible. These coordinated efforts consider the full Great Lakes basin, including its watersheds and connecting channels.

Compatibility with international protocols

Commenters recommended that any research on treatment technologies that provides additional control of ships’ ballast water be compatible with International Maritime Organization protocols; and that global and harmonized regulations would be ideal to reduce fragmentation of an already complicated regulatory framework for ballast water management for vessels.

In 2010, the Government of Canada ratified the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004. This convention will enter into force one year after it is ratified by countries representing 35% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage. This Convention will require vessels entering Canada to strictly limit the number of organisms in discharged ballast water according to an accepted international timeline.

The Government of Canada’s goal is for binationally and internationally compatible ballast water requirements that are fair, practicable and protective. The Government of Canada concurs that related commitments in the Discharges from Vessels and Aquatic Invasive Species Annexes to further reduce the risk of introduction into or spread of AIS via ships could be harmonized to make clear the Government of Canada’s commitment to consistent standards and to the Convention.

Chicago waterway closure

A commenter recommended closing the waterway connections at Chicago and that Canada and Ontario contribute funding and announce support.

This recommendation is beyond the scope of COA. The Government of Canada is continuing to monitor and work with U.S. partners, including the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, the Great Lakes Commission, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and others to develop timely and cost-effective mechanisms that will help with the prevention, movement control and management of AIS across the shared binational waterways.
9. Habitat and Species Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Target of net habitat gain

Commenters supported the “target of net habitat gain” referenced in both the GLWQA and COA and suggested that such a target be established for wetland habitat and natural heritage features.

Targets for wetland habitat and natural heritage features will be determined during the implementation of COA.

Biodiversity Conservation Strategies

A commenter supported the completion and implementation of “binational Biodiversity Conservation Strategies,” and another recommended their completion within two years. 

As outlined in COA, and in accordance with the 2012 GLWQA, Biodiversity Conservation Strategies for all of the Great Lakes will be completed by 2015. Implementation of existing Strategies is ongoing.

Wetland conservation

A commenter recommended that governments take all steps possible to work toward conservation of all wetlands (coastal, inland and offshore).

Government of Canada efforts to support the conservation of wetland habitat in the Great Lakes region are not limited to coastal wetlands. The National Wetland Conservation Fund, a new funding opportunity announced under the Government of Canada’s National Conservation Plan, will support projects to restore drained or lost wetlands on working and settled landscapes; enhance the infrastructure and/or functionality of degraded wetlands; and assess and monitor the health and functionality of wetlands and the species that use them. In addition, the Government of Canada is working with partners to implement priority Lakewide Action and Management Plan actions identified in the Binational Biodiversity Conservation Strategies. The Strategies focus on conservation of the lakes, coastal areas and tributaries.

Inclusion of terrestrial habitats

A commenter recommended that a result be added that speaks to the need to restore, protect and conserve terrestrial habitats linked to the health and function of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Through Goal 1 of the COA Habitat and Species Annex, the Government of Canada has committed to restore, protect and conserve Great Lakes aquatic and terrestrial habitats that support aquatic-dependent species. The Government of Canada is committed to working with other participants in the binational Lakewide Action and Management Plan process to implement priority actions identified in the Lake Biodiversity Conservation Strategies, which focus on the lakes and coastal areas including coastal terrestrial habitats.

Commercial shipping interests

A commenter recommended that Canada ensure that commercial navigation interests are considered in the development and implementation of the management plan for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

Parks Canada will be involving a management advisory committee in the formulation and implementation of the management plan, once it is formally established under the Canadian National Marine Conservation Areas Act. In addition, consultation with the public and other stakeholders will occur. The membership of the advisory committee will be identified at the beginning of the management planning process. An interim management plan has been developed with local stakeholders to guide the first five years of site operations while the long-term management plan is being developed. Commercial navigation interests will not be impacted by the interim management plan.
10. Groundwater Quality Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Sharing information on groundwater contamination

A commenter recommended including the development of a system to share information on Great Lakes groundwater contamination.

As called for under the 2012 GLWQA and COA, a binational Great Lakes Groundwater Science Report will be completed and made publicly available in 2015. The report will synthesize relevant and available groundwater science and will be periodically updated.
11. Climate Change Impacts Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Undertake research and deliver outreach

Commenters recommended that COA include commitments to undertake research that will enhance understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation, share relevant data, deliver outreach and training, and communicate best practices to the public.

COA includes a commitment to undertake research to improve understanding of climate change impacts and share information with the Great Lakes community, including decision-makers and resource managers, to inform adaptive management actions.

Guidance

A commenter noted that federal and provincial guidance is needed to ensure that work undertaken in this annex is effective in achieving “climate change ready” goals.

COA includes a commitment to provide climate change information to be considered in the development of adaptive management actions and to inform the Great Lakes community, including decision-makers and resource managers.

Resources to build capacity

A comment was made suggesting that the Parties provide resources to municipalities to build “climate change adaptation” and risk assessment capacity among internal sectors. 

The Government of Canada will work cooperatively with municipalities and others on climate change adaptation and risk assessment, including approaches to enhancing capacity at all levels.

Consulting municipalities and conservation authorities

A couple of commenters recommended that the Parties consult with municipalities to identify their research needs for infrastructure planning decisions, and commit to working with municipalities and conservation authorities on watershed-based adaptation planning that integrates watershed considerations into stormwater and land use planning.

Protecting Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health requires action by all levels of government.

Within COA, the Government of Canada is committed to enhancing engagement. This will involve discussing ways in which the Government of Canada can support and work cooperatively with others to achieve the goals of COA.

Greenhouse gases

A commenter recommended that Canada initiate aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gases.

Measures to reduce greenhouse gases fall outside the scope of COA.

Acoustic Doppler measurements

A commenter recommended that acoustic Doppler measurements be taken in the St. Clair River at the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia in order to better understand Lake Huron water levels.

The Government of Canada works jointly with the Government of the United States to ensure that adequate monitoring of binational sites is being undertaken. Calibration/verification flow measurements and data reviews are undertaken jointly by U.S. and Canadian agencies at the site referenced.

Wetlands

A commenter suggested that the

Parties consider the value of wetland ecosystem services and the role wetland conservation plays in addressing climate change.

COA includes a commitment to undertake and support studies that investigate the functions and ecosystem services of wetlands.

Climate and hydrometric networks

A few commenters recommended that investments be made to increase the coverage and consistency of Ontario’s climate and hydrometric networks, and that further support be provided for pilot projects, updates to information, analytical tools, knowledge transfer, and the development of indicators for climate change, vulnerability, risk and resilience.

The Government of Canada works jointly with the Government of the United States to ensure that adequate monitoring of binational sites is being undertaken.

The Canada–Ontario hydrometric network is reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure its adequacy.

Review of monitoring and assessment programs

Some commenters recommended that monitoring and assessment programs and protocols be reviewed to ensure they are consistent and fully capture climate change trends and processes.

The Government of Canada regularly reviews and revises its climate monitoring programs to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Other environmental monitoring and research will be coordinated to identify and assess the effect of climate change and other factors on Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.
12. Science Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Duplication of past efforts

A commenter noted that COA includes work addressed in previous Agreements, such as the development of indicators.

Commitments in COA will build on past work. Commitments related to science-based ecosystem indicators will respond to recommendations of the International Joint Commission regarding the renewal and focusing of indicators to be of maximum benefit in assessing trends in Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.

Monitoring and information

Commenters suggested that the Science Annex include monitoring actions as well as commitments to regular public reporting; the development of a Canada–Ontario Great Lakes Activity Summary; and sharing information collected through COA programs with the public.

The Science Annex coordinates monitoring actions under the Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative. Monitoring actions also take place under each of the other COA annexes. The Government of Canada is committed to undertaking regular assessment and reporting on the State of the Great Lakes ecosystem every three years. The Government of Canada will share Great Lakes data and information through existing means, including agency websites, reports, presentations and collaborative work, and will investigate new opportunities to efficiently convey information on an ongoing basis.

Cooperative science and monitoring initiative

A commenter recommended that the binational cooperative science and monitoring initiative also reference science activities undertaken by conservation authorities and municipalities.

The purpose of the binational Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) is to enhance cooperation and collaboration of science activities addressing Great Lakes priorities. The Government of Canada recognizes that the work done by conservation authorities, municipalities and others is vitally important to support the restoration, protection and conservation of Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health and will explore ways to enhance engagement through CSMI and other mechanisms.
13. Engaging Communities Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Increased engagement opportunities

Commenters recommended increasing engagement opportunities for Great Lakes conservation authorities, municipalities, communities, public and private sectors, and Métis and First Nations in COA implementation and negotiations for the next Agreement.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of engaging the Great Lakes community, including First Nations and Métis, municipal governments, conservation authorities, public and private sectors, to facilitate collaborative action on Great Lakes issues and priorities. Through COA, the Government of Canada has committed to providing meaningful opportunities for the Great Lakes community to discuss, advise and participate directly in Great Lakes activities and priority setting.

Increased promotion of accomplishments

A commenter recommended that agencies and partners work together to promote, to the general public, the great work that is being done on the lakes and in the watershed.

The Government of Canada agrees that promoting the good work of others and celebrating the tremendous value of the Great Lakes are important elements of an effective strategy for achieving the goals of COA, and will seek opportunities to do this throughout the implementation of COA.
14. Engaging First Nations Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Downstream interests in traditional knowledge

A commenter recommended that First Nations communities downstream from Ontario/New York State be invited to participate in COA.

The Government of Canada is open to input to and participation from all interested First Nations communities during the implementation of COA.

Inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge

Commenters supported the use of traditional knowledge to help Western science in addressing Great Lakes water issues.

The Government of Canada is pleased to include commitments in COA to advance the application of traditional knowledge in the achievement of COA goals.

Increased financial capacity

Commenters recommended that First Nations communities be provided the financial capacity to assist in COA implementation. 

The Government of Canada will work with First Nations communities to ensure meaningful engagement in the implementation of COA. 

 

15. Engaging Métis Annex
Summary of CommentResponse

Downstream interests

A commenter recommended that Métis communities downstream from Ontario/New York State be invited to participate.

The Government of Canada is open to input and participation from all interested Métis communities during the implementation of COA.

Inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge

Commenters supported the use of traditional knowledge to help western science in addressing Great Lakes water issues.

The Government of Canada is pleased to include commitments in COA to advance the application of traditional knowledge in the achievement of COA goals.

Increased financial capacity

Commenters recommended that Métis communities be provided the financial capacity to assist in COA implementation.

The Government of Canada will work with Métis communities to ensure meaningful engagement in the implementation of COA.


Appendix I

Written submissions were received from:

  1. Brendan Lynch
  2. Jerry Hockin
  3. William Stewart
  4. Michael Keating, The Sustainability Report
  5. Richard Boehnke
  6. The Council of Canadians
  7. The Canadian Fuels Association
  8. Council of Canadians – Hamilton Chapter
  9. Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association
  10. Conservation Ontario
  11. Invasive Species Centre
  12. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
  13. Shipping Federation of Canada
  14. Council of Canadians – Toronto Chapter
  15. Sierra Club of Canada Foundation
  16. Environmental DefenceFootnote 1
  17. Citizens for a Safe Environment and the Safe Sewage Committee
  18. Nature Quebec
  19. Council of Great Lakes Industries
  20. Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
  21. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper
  22. City of Toronto
  23. York Region
  24. Ontario Climate Consortium
  25. Canadian Federation of University Women
  26. Ducks Unlimited
  27. Canadian Environmental Law Association

Footnotes

Footnote 1

This submission was endorsed by the following Canadian and American organizations: i) Canadian Environmental Law Association; Canadian Federation of University Women; Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario; Clean Production Action; Dr. Gail Krantzberg; Ecojustice; Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association; Ontario Headwaters Institute; Ontario Rivers Alliance; Trout Unlimited; Wallaceburg Advisory Team for a Cleaner Habitat; and ii) Alliance for the Great Lakes; Great Lakes Environmental Law Centre; Michigan Clean Water Action; Michigan League of Conservation Voters; Midwest Environmental Advocates; Milwaukee Riverkeeper; National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Regional Centre; Save the Dunes; St. Clair River BPAC; Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council; Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters; Great Lakes Committee – Izaak Walton League.

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