It's an important summer for organizations and individuals concerned with Great Lakes issues. A new binational report will form the basis for a rewritten Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement - we have until July 14, 2007 to submit our ideas for consideration.
The Agreement is one of the most important binational commitments to protecting water quality and aquatic habitat on the Great Lakes. The review was conducted by the Great Lakes Binational Executive Committee.
This is a great opportunity to bring forward concerns about new and emerging threats that aren't covered by the current Water Quality Agreement and to make sure that changes to the Agreement reflect the needs of your community.
When the IJC reviewed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement earlier this year, it called for "unambiguous accountability" from the United States and Canada. The IJC advised the countries to Develop a Rigorous Plan, Monitor and Assess, Report, and then Use Reports to Review and Adjust Plans. It suggested that these four steps will help the two countries create accountability for Great Lakes water quality initiatives, thus restoring the public's ability to safely swim, drink and fish in the lakes.
It's a great phrase, "unambiguous accountability." It describes the kind of focused, results-oriented commitment to restoration that we haven't seen on the Great Lakes in a while.
Last winter, the IJC also highlighted the importance of consulting with the public, writing,
In our democracies the public has a pivotal role to play in all matters of public policy. Public consultation on the progress of Great Lakes restoration can empower the citizens of both countries to monitor and, in informed ways, comment on the governments' performance. Through such direct engagement, citizens could more effectively join and support government actions to restore and protect their Lakes.
It's a great quotation. The only way our environmental laws and policies have meaning and impact is if the people who live and work and play on the Great Lakes have a say in the decision-making process. We need to be able to let government know when things aren't working, and we need to be able to celebrate when things are working.
The Binational Executive Committee is recommending that the Great Lakes agreement be beefed up with new language that will help protect the lakes from the dangers associated with invasive species and aquaculture.
It's a great start.