In early 2014, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper President, Mark Mattson, was appointed to the International Joint Commission's Great Lakes Water Quality Board. The new Board met for the first time in Washington DC on April 30. In preparation for that meeting, Mark answers questions about why he joined, his areas of expertise, and his interests.
What motivated you to seek a position on the WQB?
What motivated me was the opportunity to work with an informed and passionate group of people dedicated to protecting and promoting healthy Great Lakes.
What experiences, expertise and knowledge do you bring to the table that you think will be especially valuable for our work on the Board?
For over two decades, I have worked as an environmental lawyer and Waterkeeper on the Great Lakes. My work focused on building a network of successful community-based environmental organizations across the Great Lakes and Canada, fostering and spreading the importance of swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. I also discovered and learned important facts and knowledge about the issues that threaten our Lakes. In addition, as the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, I have developed strong ties to the broader Great Lakes community that is committed to fixing our problems.
In your opinion, what are three current issues that should be the focus of our work on the Board? Briefly explain why you chose these three.
1. Restoring swimmable, drinkable, fishable water as the best measurement for determining the health of the Great Lakes.
Without a clear vision for the Great Lakes Water Quality it is hard to communicate emerging concerns to the public or expect them to do anything in response.
2. The dangerous acceleration of transporting toxic substances on and near the Great Lakes.
Without a better understanding of the increased risks from rail, pipeline, and the shipping of toxic substances on the Great Lakes we are blindly increasing the risk of more accidents and greater damage to our water to a point where it may become impossible to do anything about it.
3. Building a community of Great Lakes defenders across political jurisdictions.
The health of the Great Lakes depends on cooperation and joint respect for the rules between competing governments and industries. Without a shared vision and agreed upon standards for behaviour the Great Lakes waters will a haven for competing interests with divisive debates that paralyze our leaders from taking action.
Do you have any other comments or suggestions?
I look forward to hearing what others have to say and working together to become positive force for change on the Great Lakes.
About Great Lakes Water Quality Board
The Great Lakes Water Quality Board was established to help the International Joint Commission exercise the powers and responsibilities assigned to it under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Board is comprised of an equal number of members from Canada and the United States who serve at the pleasure of the Commission.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Board identifies emerging issues and recommending strategies and approaches for preventing and resolving the complex challenges facing the Great Lakes. It is further charged with providing advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions to implement these strategies and approaches.
About the International Joint Commission
Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission (IJC) because they recognized that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems along the border. The two countries cooperate to manage these waters wisely and to protect them for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations.
The IJC is guided by the Boundary Waters Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States in 1909. The treaty provides general principles, rather than detailed prescriptions, for preventing and resolving disputes over waters shared between the two countries and for settling other transboundary issues. The specific application of these principles is decided on a case-by-case basis.
The IJC has two main responsibilities: regulating shared water uses and investigating transboundary issues and recommending solutions.The IJC's recommendations and decisions take into account the needs of a wide range of water uses, including drinking water, commercial shipping, hydroelectric power generation, agriculture, industry, fishing, recreational boating and shoreline property.