Great Lakes Areas of Concern
An Area of Concern is a location that has experienced environmental degradation. Under Annex 2, 42 Areas of Concern were identified and one more (Erie, Pennsylvania) was added later. Currently there are 9 Areas of Concern in Canada, 25 Areas of Concern in the United States, and 5 additional Areas of Concern shared by both countries. The International Joint Commission (IJC), which has members from both Canada and the United States, monitors progress in all of the Area of Concerns.
Following the 1987 revisions to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting Great Lakes Water Quality was revised to provide a more specific framework for restoring Areas of Concerns in Ontario. The Agreement also provides guidelines for controlling pollution and conserving and protecting both human and ecosystem health in these environmentally degraded locations.
Each Area of Concern has developed a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) that guides restoration and protection efforts. All RAP must proceed through three stages. Stage One is to determine the severity and underlying causes of environmental degradation that make the location an Area of Concern. An Area could be degraded for a variety of reasons, such as excess nutrients in the water, bacteria or chemical contaminants in the environment, or loss of fish and wildlife habitat. Stage Two is to identify goals and recommend actions that will lead to the restoration and protection of ecosystem health. Stage Three is to implement recommended actions and measure progress of restoration and protection efforts in the Area of Concern to ensure the local goals have been met.
When Stage Three is complete, the Area of Concern is "delisted". Delisting an Area of Concern means that the goals identified in the RAP have been achieved. The decision to delist an Area is made by the federal, provincial, and local RAP participants, with advice from the IJC. When an Area is delisted, however, it doesn't mean all the work is done. Continued diligence is essential to ensure that the environmental quality is sustained into the future.
RAP are important scientific endeavors that are a part of many Great Lakes communities. The Great Lakes RAP Program was created in 1987, when it was formalized in Annex 2 of the GLWQA between Canada and the United States. Annex 2 outlines the commitment of both countries to an "ecosystem approach" for restoring and protecting environmentally degraded areas of the Great Lakes. This Annex is unique because it considers humans as part of the environment along with plants and animals and thus takes a holistic approach to environmental management.
Of the 43 original Areas of Concern in Canada and the United States, four have been delisted: Collingwood Harbour, Severn Sound and Wheatley Harbour in Canada and Oswego River in the United States.
There has been great progress in other Areas of Concerns. In addition to protecting water, air and land in the Great Lakes, RAP have been instrumental in giving communities a sense of environmental stewardship and pride in their progress towards delisting. Many communities are now considering the possibility of delisting in the next five to ten years, and it is the goal of all participants, from the federal to community levels, to make that a reality.
This Web site is a snapshot of the work that has been done in the RAP program. For more information about the program, please contact us.
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