Review Notes for Exam #2- Geography 2011.docx

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Notes for: Institutions and Rules for the Environment of the Great Lakes
- Author: M. Sproule-Jones
- Remedial Action Plans (RAPs), are designed with an ecosystem principle in
mind. Essentially, this means that the interdependencies between users and
uses of the basin ecosystem must be acknowledged and included in planning
objectives and actions
o Also included in the plan must be the interconnections between air
and land and the water with which they share the environment (in
- Early studies in Canada focused on point source regulations and rules of
national governments
- International Agreements:
- Boundary Waters Treaty, 1909:
o Established after American revolution
o Split jurisdiction over the lakes but retained exclusive British
jurisdiction over the lower St. Lawrence
- International Waterways Commission, 1905:
o Purely investigatory and advisory body
o Recognized need for body with a authority to make (limited) binding
decisions on any use of boundary waters that affected levels and flows
on either side
o Resulted in Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, and establishment of
the International Joint Commission (IJC)
- IJC consisted of six commissioners, three appointed by the President of the
US and three by the United Kingdom
o After the 1929 treaty of Westminster, by the government of Canada
o Still relatively powerless; no power to enforce either the treaty or its
own orders
o It may advise gov’ts on matters referred to it for consideration
1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada
and US serves as a major example of the IJC’s advisory role
o Has administrative role in regards to the two trans boundary rivers-
the St. Mary’s and the Milk River. Two rivers are to be considered one
and shared equally between the two countries.
o Also has power to arbitrate between two countries, but has never
been exercised (gov’ts prefer to resort to conventions)
- IJC exerts its power through its reputation as an objective, non-partisan
authority that relies on the best scientific advise
o Gains power from its ability to mobilize large numbers of scientific
experts (from both sides of the border) to staff its advisory
- In summary:
- “The commission has been created to serve the Canadian and the United
States governments by assisting them in avoiding and resolving contentious
or potentially difficult issues. The Commission fulfills this role by responding
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to References and by deciding on Applications for Approval to use, obstruct
or divert boundary waters and transboundary rivers”
- Foundation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement:
- As early as 1912, the Can. And US Gov’ts asked the IJC to examine the general
extent of pollution in the Great Lakes and make specific recommendations
for the St Marys, St Clair, Detroit, Niagara, and St. Lawrence Rivers
- Main concern was effect of waterborne diseases (such as cholera)
- Water disposal continued to be a problem until the eutrophication of Lake
Erie captured public attention in the 1960s
- GLWQA of 1972 came after several IJC studies on the GLs
o Focus on cleanup began in 1960 when IJC appointed two joint
investigative boards for Lake Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence river
o Boards made up of technical people from all different levels of
government, and reports emphasized nutrient loading (especially
phosphorous) as cause for eutrophication
o In 1965 IJC reported phosphorus as cause for eutrophication and
regulatory limits needed, but Ontario and some American
governments were unwilling to consider such measures
o The two boards established were:
The International Lake Erie Water Pollution Board
The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Water Pollution
o 1969 final report from these technical boards was reported to the IJC.
Stated that Erie, Ontario and the international section of the St.
Lawrence was being polluted, especially by phosphates and other
o In 1970, first ministerial-level meeting devoted to the Great Lakes
pollution problem. US unwilling to take necessary measures to reduce
pollution. Reason being, based on the “assimilative capacity” of the
waters set out in the 1909 treaty, Canada would only require minimal
cutbacks on their pollution measures, meanwhile the US would have
to institute drastic pollution control measures.
o In 1971, after significant Canadian diplomatic pressure, the two
countries agreed to establish a joint working group that would
examine the present programs and the possible need for a great lakes
water agreement
- Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 1972
o In this agreement, IJC was responsible for collecting and analyzing
information on objectives and programs for verification of data that
had been collected in the 1969 Lakes Erie and Ontario-St. Lawrence
o Major studies subsequently completed on all lakes
o Main strategy used to reduce nutrient inflow involved improving
municipal sewage treatment
o Between 1972-1978, about US $10 Billion was spent on upgrades
o Effect on water quality was immediately and readily apparent
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o Between 1968-85 phosphorus concentrations in Erie declined at high
detectable rates
o Similarly, annual surveys from 1973-1986 indicated comparable rates
of decrease in phosphorus loadings in Lake Ontario
- Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 1978
o The 1978 GLWQA shifted the emphasis away from excess nutrient
loadings and towards control of toxic substances
o Extended mandate to cover all five great lakes and their tributaries
(rather than just Erie and Ontario)
o Maintained basic structure of 1972 agreement:
Joint water quality objectives and standards were set,
commitments to implement control programs were made, and
the IJC mandate of monitoring progress was revamped and
More stringent standards were set across the board with
regard to water quality
o New concept was introduced: The Great Lakes basin ecosystem
o Defined as:
“The interacting components of air, land, water and living
organisms, including man, within the drainage basin of the St,
Lawrence River at or upstream from the point at which this
river become the international boundary between Canada the
o Essentially, an ecosystem is a system of interacting components, both
physical and biological, that exhibit some degree of internal linkage
and an implied boundary
o The 1978 GLWQA states: “the restoration and enhancement of
boundary waters cannot be achieved independently of the
restoration and enhancement of those parts of the Great Lakes
basin ecosystem with which the waters interact”
o It attempts to eliminate any substances that may be detrimental to the
quality of the water
o Also adds more responsibility for both governments because the
bounded field of policy includes the basin-wide watershed of the
Great Lakes and the multifarious relationships that affect it, both
within and without
o GLWQA’s specific objectives specify the minimum levels of water
o These levels are set forth in quantitative terms, such as
concentrations of particular substances within the Great Lakes
system. Idea is to protect the most sensitive uses of water
o Water quality is classified into chemical, physical,
microbiological, and radiological properties
Chemical properties section is further divided into:
persistent toxic substances, both organic (ex: DDT) and
inorganic (ex; metals, lead). Non-persistent toxic
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