2014-2016 Great Lakes Binational Priorities for Science and Action

Article 5, Section 2(c) of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 2012 states:

“…the Parties shall establish, in consultation with the Great Lakes Executive Committee, binational priorities for science and action to address current and future threats to the quality of the Water of the Great Lakes, not later than six months after each Great Lakes Public Forum. The priorities shall be established based on an evaluation of the state of the Great Lakes and input received during the Great Lakes Public Forum and recommendations of the [International Joint] Commission.”

As of March 10, 2014, the Parties (The Governments of Canada and the United States) have agreed on the following priorities for 2014 through 2016 to guide their work under the Agreement:

Annex Priorities for Science Priorities for Action

1. Areas of Concern

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  • Develop Areas of Concern (AOC) guidance documents to provide additional knowledge and tools to enhance and advance the restoration and delisting of AOCs.
  • Develop practices or mechanisms (such as Remedial Action Plan reports, lessons learned, or beneficial use impairments information) for sharing information among AOC communities and the broader public.

2. Lakewide Management

  • Undertake scientific monitoring and research studies on stressors and cumulative effects in priority nearshore areas of the Great Lakes as identified through development of the integrated nearshore framework.
  • Identify and address lake-specific priorities for science through the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative and Lakewide Action and Management Plan processes. CSMI-focussed science and monitoring field work will be undertaken in 2013 in Lake Ontario, 2014 in Lake Erie, 2015 in Lake Michigan, 2016 in Lake Superior, and 2017 in Lake Huron.
  • Draft Lake Ecosystem Objectives for each Great Lake as benchmarks to measure status and trends, including a guidance document by July 2014 and draft objectives for Lake Erie by July 2015.
  • By 2016, establish an integrated framework which can be used to assess, identify priorities, and guide management of nearshore areas of the Great Lakes.

3. Chemicals of Mutual Concern

  • Develop analytical methods to support monitoring, surveillance and/or risk management needs identified in binational strategies for Chemicals of Mutual Concern.
  • Undertake research, monitoring and/or surveillance activities identified in binational strategies, to address information gaps and needs for Chemicals of Mutual Concern.
  • Coordinate research, monitoring and/or surveillance activities to provide an early warning for chemicals that could become Chemicals of Mutual Concern.
  • Develop a binational process and considerations to identify and designate Chemicals of Mutual Concern on an ongoing basis.
  • Identify the 1st set of candidate Chemicals of Mutual Concern in Spring 2014.
  • Apply the binational process and considerations to the 1st set of candidate chemicals and recommend resulting Chemicals of Mutual Concern for consideration by the Great Lakes Executive Committee in Fall 2014.
  • Designate the 1st set of Chemicals of Mutual Concern by the Parties in Fall 2014.
  • Identify and evaluate existing water quality standards, objectives, criteria and guidelines, or, when warranted, develop new water quality standards, objectives, criteria and guidelines for the 1st set of Chemicals of Mutual Concern in Spring 2015 (to be available on-line).
  • Complete the development of binational strategies for the 1st set of Chemicals of Mutual Concern by Summer 2015.
  • Identify the 2nd set of candidate Chemicals of Mutual Concern in Spring 2015.

4. Nutrients

  • Undertake science to support the establishment of phosphorus concentration objectives, loading targets and loading allocations.
  • Identify sources of phosphorus and priority watersheds for action.
  • Improve understanding of how aquatic invasive species, lake dynamics, climate change and other factors affect phosphorus concentrations and algae growth.
  • Improve monitoring techniques and approaches to enable tracking progress towards objectives.
  • By 2016, update the 1987 offshore phosphorus concentration objectives for Lake Erie and develop new nearshore phosphorus concentration objectives.
  • By 2016, determine the phosphorus loading targets for Lake Erie, apportioned by country, required to achieve the above phosphorus objectives.
  • Assess the effectiveness of current programs and practices to manage phosphorus inputs to Lake Erie.
  • Develop and implement phosphorus reduction strategies and domestic action plans to ensure measures to manage phosphorus produce maximum results.

5. Discharges from Vessels

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  • Continue to prevent and reduce threats from all vessel discharges to the waters of the Great Lakes.
  • Continue ship inspections to examine foreign-flag ships through the Canadian and U.S. Port State Control program and to regulate U.S. and Canadian vessels principally traversing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway under the domestic vessel inspection regime.

6. Aquatic Invasive Species

  • Undertake ecological assessments of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention programs.
  • Develop and evaluate early AIS detection technologies and methods.
  • Research and develop technologies and methods for control and eradication of AIS.
  • Determine the effects of habitat and climate change on risks of AIS establishment.
  • Implement and evaluate risk assessments of species, pathways, and vectors of AIS.
  • By 2015, develop and implement an early detection and rapid response initiative that coordinates effective domestic and, when necessary, binational response to prevent AIS from becoming established in the Great Lakes.

7. Habitats and Species

  • Increase understanding of habitats and species to develop a baseline against which to assess targets and work toward net habitat gain.
  • Investigate tools and techniques that can assist with priority identification, target setting and decision-making for the conservation and protection of native species and their habitat.
  • Explore ways to incorporate the concepts of resilience, adaptive management and climate change adaptation strategies into efforts to conserve and protect native species and their habitat.
  • By 2015, complete the binational Biodiversity Conservation Strategies for all lakes, including connecting channels.
  • Implement priority actions identified in the Biodiversity Conservation Strategies through existing programs and agreements.

8. Groundwater

  • Identify science gaps and research needs concerning groundwater impacts to the waters of the Great Lakes.
  • Undertake surveillance of groundwater quality for priority areas.
  • Analyze contaminants, such as nutrients, and other factors, such as climate change, that affect groundwater’s impact on the waters of the Great Lakes.
  • By 2015, publish a Groundwater Science Report of available groundwater science to understand and manage groundwater and its impacts on the waters of the Great Lakes.
  • Coordinate binational groundwater activities under the GLWQA with domestic groundwater programs to assess, protect and manage groundwater impacting the waters of the Great Lakes.

9. Climate Change Impacts

  • Compile existing knowledge on Great Lakes climate change.
  • After compiling Great Lakes climate change knowledge, assess and identify critical information needs and develop strategies to address those gaps.
  • Address the needs of other GLWQA annexes for improved climate change science (e.g., understanding positive and negative impacts predicted under climate scenarios, monitoring of climate variables, improving tools for the analysis of climate change).
  • Communicate and share climate change information with key user groups throughout the Great Lakes basin.
  • Refine existing “Great Lakes Climate Summaries and Outlooks” factsheets with enhanced binational collaboration to produce and deliver climate information on a regular basis.

10. Science

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  • Implement the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative that coordinates planning, delivery and reporting of science on a lake-by-lake five-year rotation.
  • Integrate science activities across all Annexes to ensure that essential knowledge gaps are filled and that science needs across the Agreement are effectively managed.
  • Explore options for managing and sharing data and information under the Agreement.
  • Facilitate timely reporting and synthesis of all science under the Agreement, particularly as it relates to Lakewide Action and Management Plans and State of the Lakes reporting.
  • In consultation with Annex co-leads, the International Joint Commission and others, identify potential subject areas for science assessments that would contribute to management actions and policy development. Final selection of subject area(s) to be made by the Great Lakes Executive Committee in consultation with the Co-Chairs.


Pamela Finlayson, Environment Canada