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ARCHIVED - Proposed Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem

Annex 3 - Lake and Basin Sustainability

  1. Preamble
  2. Goals
  3. Results
  4. Definitions

I Preamble

To achieve the Agreement's vision of a healthy, prosperous and sustainable Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem it is necessary to increase efforts to anticipate and prevent environmental problems in addition to the work being undertaken to resolve existing concerns. Therefore this Annex focuses attention on better stewardship of these aquatic resources and encourages the integration of these practices into the everyday activities of communities and citizens in the Great Lakes Basin.

Although each Lake has its own unique physical, chemical, biological, geographical and land use characteristics, the Great Lakes and the surrounding basin form an interconnected system. The goals and related initiatives within this Annex are applied at different scales - basin-wide, lake-wide or watershed - to achieve improvements to aquatic ecosystem health in the Great Lakes. Progress must be made on all goals and at all scales to maximize effectiveness and synergies within the Annex.

To achieve the long term vision, collaboration and cooperative implementation must be continually encouraged and fostered across the Great Lakes community, including federal and provincial agencies, Aboriginal communities, municipalities, conservation authorities, agriculture, industrial and other business sectors, non-government organizations, academia and residents. Binational collaboration with U.S. agencies and communities in the protection, restoration and sustainable management of this international resource is facilitated through the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and other binational Great Lakes focused collaborations such as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

This Annex addresses initiatives that directly promote the adoption and implementation of sustainable management practices, and enhanced stewardship efforts as well as activities required to protect important biodiversity areas and to restore conditions at priority locations with a focus on:

  • Contributions to improving the social and economic well-being of humans and the health of Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems,

  • Improving Great Lakes water quality,

  • Conserving Great Lakes biodiversity, and

  • Responding to the threats of aquatic invasive species.

This Annex also addresses two new areas of special focus:

  • Climate change impacts in the Great Lakes Basin, and

  • Protection of the Great Lakes Basin as a source of drinking water.

Climate change will affect the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. This Annex looks to identify and project changes to climate and ecosystems and assess the impacts and vulnerabilities.

The Great Lakes Basin waters are the drinking water sources for most Ontarians. Drinking water source protection takes a preventative approach, working at the watershed scale to protect communities' drinking water while supporting other lake- and basin-wide environmental initiatives.

II Goals

The Parties have identified four, long-term goals with results and commitments that will demonstrate progress over the duration of the Agreement towards sustainability of the Great Lakes Basin:

  1. Encourage and enhance Great Lakes sustainability to achieve social, economic and aquatic ecosystem well-being;

  2. Improve water quality in each Great Lake by making progress on virtual elimination of persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances and the reduction of other harmful pollutants;

  3. Conserve and protect aquatic ecosystems, species and genetic diversity of the Great Lakes Basin; and

  4. Reduce the threat of aquatic invasive species to Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems and species.

The Parties have also identified goals with results and commitments that will demonstrate progress over the duration of this Agreement associated with the two areas of special focus:

  1. Understand the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem; and

  2. Make significant progress towards the development and implementation of locally-created, science-based source protection plans to identify and mitigate risks to drinking water sources in the Great Lakes Basin.

III Results

Goal 1: Encourage and enhance Great Lakes sustainability to achieve social, economic and aquatic ecosystem well-being.

Living sustainably within the Great Lakes Basin will help us achieve environmental health and social and economic well-being. Basin residents can make choices that contribute to environmental health as well as prosperity. Sustainable living means that we act with awareness of our impacts on the natural environment and do what we can to prevent further harm and create environmental, social and economic benefits.

The results and commitments for this goal support increased appreciation of the Great Lakes as a unique and valuable resource that contributes significantly to the economic and social prosperity of Ontario and Canada. They acknowledge and support the role that we can all play to protect, restore and sustain the Lakes for current and future generations.

Result 1.1 - Increased awareness and appreciation of the Great Lakes and their contributions to social, economic and environmental well-being.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Develop and implement a coordinated multi-year action plan to increase Basin residents' awareness and appreciation of the Great Lakes, including better understanding of the relationship between social and economic well-being and healthy aquatic ecosystems; and

  2. Report, including publicly, on the state of each Great Lake, Lake St. Clair, and the inter-connecting channels through existing forums, such as State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference.

Result 1.2 - Increased stewardship actions that work towards a balance between human well-being and prosperity, and healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Implement stewardship actions and beneficial management practices with landowners, community groups and environmental and sector organizations, on urban, industrial and rural lands that are linked to aquatic habitats and water quality in Great Lakes watersheds, and near-shore, coastal and riparian areas, consistent with Great Lakes plans and priority watersheds;

  2. Work with the agricultural sector to implement environmental farm planning and beneficial land and water management practices by providing technical advice, workshops, education and outreach materials and cost share funding for land owner contact programs, environmental stewardship projects and beneficial management practices;

  3. Provide technical transfer opportunities such as workshops, extension materials and training to promote stewardship activities by communities and landowners; and

  4. Improve public awareness and access to programs that support beneficial management practices and stewardship activities.

Result 1.3 - Sustainable use of land, water and other natural resources to provide benefits from the Great Lakes now and in the future.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Provide leadership and participate in bi-national Great Lakes planning initiatives such as binational lakewide management and action plans;

  2. Conserve aquatic and related terrestrial ecosystems through application of relevant federal and provincial laws;

  3. Make available new and updated Great Lakes coastal and riparian wetland evaluations and provide training and extension materials to aid municipal planning;

  4. Foster sustainable water use and conservation consistent with the intent of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement; and

  5. Sustain Great Lakes fisheries to ensure aquatic ecosystem health, supply wholesome fish for human consumption and provide recreational opportunities.
Canada will:
  1. Implement fisheries habitat management consistent with Great Lakes planning.
Ontario will:
  1. Develop and deliver materials, education and training programs to increase communication and raise awareness about tools for sustainable land use planning; and

  2. Work towards sustainable growth in the Great Lakes Basin through existing planning frameworks such as the Provincial Policy Statement 2005, Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Result 1.4 - Enhanced knowledge about beneficial and harmful impacts of human activities on Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems and resources

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Undertake and support research and monitoring on the impacts of changing land use practices on the health of Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems;

  2. Undertake and support research and monitoring on the development and effectiveness of urban, rural, and industrial best management practices;

  3. Undertake and support research and monitoring on the status of fish communities and aquatic food webs;

  4. Undertake and support research and monitoring on surface and ground water supplies and water-takings to guide sustainable water use and conservation;

  5. Develop and implement adaptive management decision-support tools to guide sustainable land and aquatic resource use; and

  6. Implement Binational Cooperative Monitoring programs in Lake Huron in 2007, Lake Ontario in 2008 and Lake Erie in 2009.

Goal 2: Improve water quality in each Great Lake by making progress on virtual elimination of persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances and the reduction of other harmful pollutants.

Over the past three decades, Canada and Ontario have made significant progress in eliminating, reducing and preventing the release of persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances and other harmful pollutants into the Great Lakes. Continued effort is required to address both legacy and new emerging chemical threats, excessive nutrients and pathogens (i.e. viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms). This effort is needed to restore and sustain healthy ecosystems, reduce human exposure to contaminants in fish and wildlife, keep waters safe for swimming and recreation, and ensure a source of high quality drinking water is maintained. The Parties agree to continue to work together to identify and reduce the threat posed to the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem by harmful pollutants from urban and rural sources on a lake-by-lake basis. The work conducted under this Annex complements and assists in guiding actions in Annex 2.

Result 2.1 - Reduced nutrients, microbial and other contaminants from industrial and municipal wastewater, combined sewer overflows and urban stormwater sources consistent with actions specified in binational Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) and binational lake action plans.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Identify and promote priority actions related to the development of pollution control plans, sewage treatment plant upgrades, combined sewer overflows and urban stormwater in municipalities;

  2. Promote where appropriate a voluntary approach with municipalities to achieve results beyond compliance with existing regulations for specific municipal wastewater sources that require greater measures to attain lake water quality targets; and

  3. Conduct specific watershed investigations to identify sources of harmful pollutants in lakes Superior, Huron, St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario.
Canada will:
  1. Ensure the implementation of the Canada Shipping Actand the Conventions of the International Maritime Organization to prevent pollution from shipping sources in the Great Lakes.
Ontario will:
  1. Use a mix of voluntary and regulatory measures to reduce the use, discharge and emission of critical pollutants by key facilities in each of the Great Lakes.

Result 2.2 - Reduced nutrient, microbial and other contaminants from rural sources by undertaking actions specified in the binational Lakewide Management Plans and binational lake action plans.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Identify priority watersheds in lakes Huron, St. Clair and Ontario in order to address water quality and aquatic ecosystem concerns in the near-shore zone;

  2. Evaluate potential non-point source pollutant reductions that can be achieved from the enhanced use of selected best management practices in the Great Lakes and priority watersheds; and

  3. Implement actions to reduce non-point source pollutants in priority watersheds within the Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie drainage basins.

Result 2.3 - Identification of contaminated sediment and development of sediment management plans to reduce the release and impact of sediment-bound contaminants on the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Identify sites outside Areas of Concern (AOCs) that have contaminated sediment and apply the Canada Ontario Agreement Contaminated Sediment Assessment Decision-Making Framework to determine potential ecological or human health risks;

  2. Where required, develop management plans to reduce the ecological and human health risks posed by contaminated sediment; and

  3. Where necessary, undertake post project monitoring to track recovery in areas where sediment remediation has been completed.

Result 2.4 - Enhanced knowledge about beneficial and harmful impacts of human activities on Great Lakes water quality.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Collect environmental information through lake monitoring to assist in understanding the linkages between Great Lakes sources of harmful pollutants and human health;

  2. Undertake and support research and monitoring on the sources, fate and effects of harmful pollutants and nutrients, on aquatic food webs and species;

  3. Undertake and support research and monitoring on the sources of pollutants for each Great Lake and Lake St. Clair to determine their impacts on water quality for the main lakes' open water waters, near-shore zones and beaches; and

  4. Develop and implement adaptive management decision-support tools to guide actions to improve water quality.

Goal 3: Conserve and protect aquatic ecosystems, species and genetic diversity of the Great Lakes Basin.

The Great Lakes Basin is an ecologically important region with a rich diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species. Efforts are underway to protect, restore and sustain this abundant diversity of species and the habitats that make up the aquatic ecosystems in the Basin. A balanced approach also recognizes that we use and develop biological assets sustainably to provide social and economic benefits. During the duration of the Agreement, Canada and Ontario intend to make further progress in aquatic habitat protection, restoration and in the rehabilitation of native Great Lakes species.

Result 3.1 - Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems and habitats are protected, restored and sustained consistent with binational Great Lakes planning.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Inventory, assess and describe linkages among aquatic ecosystems and habitats of the lakes' open waters, near-shore zones, coastal areas and rivers to identify priorities for protection and rehabilitation actions;

  2. Secure lands, as opportunities arise, to protect Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems using a variety of voluntary tools such as land acquisitions, landowner agreements and incentive programs;

  3. Plan and implement actions to support the Marine Conservation Area for Lake Superior, and determine the feasibility of other candidate sites in the Great Lakes;

  4. Protect and conserve coastal and riparian wetlands consistent with initiatives such as the Great Lakes Wetlands Conservation Action Plan and binational lake plans;

  5. Plan and implement actions to protect and rehabilitate Great Lakes waterfowl, shore and marsh birds, wetlands and associated habitats through Great Lakes plans, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative; and

  6. Complete and implement binational biodiversity conservation plans for lakes Superior, Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario.

Result 3.2 - Progress on rehabilitation of Great Lakes native species to restore the health of aquatic ecosystems, consistent with binational Great Lakes planning.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Make progress on rehabilitation of Lake Superior native species such as coaster brook trout and walleye;

  2. Make progress on rehabilitation of Lake Huron native species such as lake sturgeon, lake trout and walleye;

  3. Make progress on rehabilitation of native species of lakes Erie and St. Clair such as lake sturgeon and lake herring; and

  4. Make progress on rehabilitation of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River native species such as Atlantic salmon, American eel, bald eagle, lake trout and lake sturgeon.

Result 3.3 - Enhanced knowledge about beneficial and harmful impacts of human activities on Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems, habitats and species.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Undertake and support research and monitoring on the factors affecting aquatic ecosystems, habitats and native species;

  2. Develop and implement rapid assessment and remote sensing techniques to identify aquatic ecosystem status trends and stresses for Great Lakes and St. Lawrence near-shore zones, wetlands and tributaries; and

  3. Develop and implement adaptive management decision-support tools to guide conservation of aquatic biodiversity within the Great Lakes Basin.

Goal 4: Reduce the threat of aquatic invasive species to Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems and species.

A new aquatic invasive species enters the Great Lakes approximately every six to nine months. Some of the invaders become established and change the ecology of the lakes by disrupting food webs, displacing native species, altering energy pathways, and affecting water clarity in near-shore zones. They not only lead to ecological changes and but can also alter cycling of chemical contaminants and nutrients, and impact infrastructure operational costs and beaches. Both Canada and Ontario recognize the threat of aquatic invasive species to the health of the Great Lakes and will work cooperatively to implement a national plan in the Great Lakes region.

Result 4.1 - Implementation of the "National Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species" in the Great Lakes.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Coordinate implementation of the National Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species specific to the Great Lakes;

  2. Identify allowable species associated with each pathway or sector and the application of appropriate federal and/or provincial legislation and regulations to prevent new aquatic invasive species introductions;

  3. Develop early detection and rapid response to new aquatic invasive species; and

  4. Increase public awareness and education to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and to report new occurrences.
Canada will:
  1. Make prevention a priority by ensuring actions such as 100 percent compliance with Ballast Water Regulations; and

  2. Implement the Great Lakes Sea Lamprey Control Program in cooperation with the United States government to reduce sea lamprey populations.

Result 4.2: Enhanced knowledge about the harmful impacts of aquatic invasive species on Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems, food webs and species.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Develop biological and socio-economic risk assessment tools to determine pathways and relative risks associated with aquatic invasive species;

  2. Increase understanding through research into the impacts, management and control of aquatic invasive species; and

  3. Monitor and report the status of aquatic invasive species and their impacts on Great Lakes food webs.
Canada will:
  1. Conduct research on eradication, containment and control methods for aquatic invasive species and new technologies to eliminate ballast water introductions.

Goal 5: Understand the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, warming of the global climate system is unequivocal. In Ontario and the Great Lakes Basin, the impacts of climate change have been illustrated in numerous studies such as the Toronto-Niagara Region Study on Atmospheric Change, the Ontario Volume of the Canada Country Study, and the bi-national Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin study. The Parties agree that action is needed to identify changes to climate and ecosystems and assess impacts and vulnerabilities. The Parties understand that there are limitations to the ability to predict and model local impacts on specific ecosystems and regions. The Parties also understand that discussions of mitigation efforts must be addressed in a national and international context and are outside the scope of this Agreement.

Result 5.1 - The impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes ecosystem composition, structure, and function, including biodiversity (organisms and their habitat), water quality and quantity, human health and safety (including access to clean drinking water), social well being and economic prosperity are understood by governments and the Great Lakes community.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Support the development of evidence, indicators, and model projections of climate and ecosystem change in the Great Lakes Basin, to the extent feasible;

  2. Increase understanding, to the extent feasible, of the impacts on and vulnerabilities of the Great Lakes including biodiversity, natural resources, water assets, human health and safety, the economy and infrastructure; and

  3. Facilitate linkages to climate change science, impacts and policy work of international, national, provincial and municipal governments, non-governmental organizations, industry and academia.
Canada will:
  1. Provide information on atmospheric hazards and regional atmospheric change impact studies to the extent feasible to decision makers and the public.
Ontario will:
  1. Continue working with other agencies and organizations to help communities around the Great Lakes ensure that foundation work is begun on managing the impacts of climate change.

Goal 6: Make significant progress towards the development and implementation of locally-created, science-based source protection plans to identify and mitigate risks to drinking water sources in the Great Lakes Basin.

More than 70% of Ontario's population draw their water directly from the Great Lakes and connecting channels. Others draw from the underground aquifers within the Great Lakes Basin, or from the Basin's streams, rivers and other surface waters. In total, about 95% of Ontarians, or more than 12 million people, depend on the waters of the Great Lakes Basin for water supply to their homes and communities. This area of special focus addresses the protection of the Great Lakes as sources of drinking water for the millions of people who rely on them.

In Ontario, the Great Lakes and their major aquifers are generally very high quality sources of drinking water. However, additional effort and cooperation are warranted to ensure that growing populations in the Basin can continue to rely on Great Lakes water for the many generations to come. This renewed Agreement recognizes that what happens on the land affects the water, and commits to the watershed approach to protecting the sources of drinking water in the Great Lakes Basin. Source protection in the Great Lakes Basin must integrate local watershed activities with lake- and basin-wide prevention and remediation action.

The Parties have agreed to achieve progress during the duration of the Agreement on collaborative, watershed-based action to protect the waters of the Great Lakes Basin as safe, reliable and trusted sources for drinking water supply.

Result 6.1 - The potential risks to Great Lakes Basin drinking water sources are identified and assessed, and early actions to address risks are undertaken.

To protect the safety, reliability and quality of Great Lakes Basin waters for drinking water supply, we must go beyond reactive and remedial approaches to anticipate and avoid the activities that pose a risk to drinking water sources. Source protection is a science-based, locally-driven process to protect drinking water on a watershed-by-watershed basis. The Parties recognize that the Great Lakes, which integrate the impacts of pollution across the tributary watersheds of the Great Lakes Basin, require special protections. Municipalities, conservation authorities and individuals have a role to play in conducting the science assessments and then making locally-appropriate decisions to minimize risks to water supplies.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Provide Source Protection Committees with access to provincial and federal data sets, studies and expertise to support the identification and assessment of issues and threats to drinking water sources;

  2. Include the consideration of protecting drinking water sources from significant risks associated with wastewater, where such risks are identified, when setting priorities for Canada and Ontario infrastructure funding programs; and

  3. Collaboratively pursue strengthening of protection of the Great Lakes as sources of drinking water through existing binational mechanisms.
Canada will:
  1. Support demonstration projects and technology transfer on municipal, wastewater treatment technologies to control pathogens and chemicals of emerging concern; and

  2. Consult with agencies responsible for federal lands and facilities, to develop a framework for their participation in watershed-based source protection.
Ontario will:
  1. Establish source protection authorities and support the creation of source protection committees that include municipal, conservation authority, First Nation, industrial, business, agricultural, non-government organization and other watershed representatives and individuals, for the development of source protection plans;

  2. Provide regulations, rules and guidelines for the development of source protection workplan documents and scientific assessment reports, including the specific needs of Great Lakes drinking water systems;

  3. Provide mechanisms through regulations, rules and guidance under the Clean Water Act, 2006 for the integration of source protection plans with Great Lakes plans and agreements;

  4. Engage with interested First Nations to develop: the framework for representatives to hold a seat on local source protection committees, and a process for Band Councils to opt in to participating in watershed-based source protection planning; and provide access to training and technical guidelines for interested First Nations to conduct source water protection assessments.

  5. Maintain a stewardship fund to provide education and outreach on the protection of drinking water sources, and to directly support action on mitigating potential threats to source waters.

Result 6.2: Develop knowledge and understanding of water quality and quantity issues of concern to the Great Lakes as drinking water sources

Source protection planning is a science-based undertaking. It is also an inherently precautionary approach. To protect source water quality, it is necessary to understand the occurrence and significance of contaminants of existing or emerging concern on a lake-wide basis as well as on a site-specific basis. Water quantity in areas of the Basin might also be at risk, as land uses and climate change may threaten water levels or disrupt the processes that replenish underground aquifers. Canada and Ontario, working with other members of the Great Lakes community will contribute data and expertise to build a better understanding of the source water issues and concerns in the Great Lakes.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Support improved collaboration on Great Lakes drinking water source protection research among governments, academics, industry, watershed groups and U.S. counterparts; and

  2. Provide source protection committees with access to provincial and federal data sets, studies and expertise on environmental monitoring and science concerning source water quality and quantity, occurrence and causes of water quality impairments, and related potential health risks.
Ontario will:
  1. Ensure that watershed-based committees in the Great Lakes Basin collaborate to identify issues and threats shared by multiple watersheds in the basin, to inform the development of provincially-mandated Great Lakes source protection targets and other provincial actions as needed; and

  2. Support the engagement of conservation authorities and municipalities in the Great Lakes Basin for the assessment, restoration and protection of Great Lakes watersheds for both drinking water source protection and broader ecosystem protection purposes.

IV Definitions

Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) and binational lake action plans
Lake-based binational initiatives that establish aquatic ecosystem goals and identify and report on priorities for actions to protect and restore Great Lakes ecosystems. These initiatives are endorsed and overseen by the Great Lakes Binational Executive Committee and are a key program in delivering Canada's commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Lakewide Management Plans are in place for lakes Superior, Erie and Ontario. Lake actions plans are in place for both lakes Huron and St. Clair and are known as the Lake Huron Binational Partnership and Lake St. Clair Management Plan.

Source Protection - or the protection of existing and future sources of drinking water, is the first barrier in a multi-barrier approach to drinking water safety. It compliments water treatment to protect human health by reducing the risk that water gets contaminated in the first place. Ontario is developing the regulatory framework that integrates locally-driven, watershed-based source protection in Great Lakes tributary watersheds with Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem protections.

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