The Governments of Canada and the United States agree on 2017-2019 Great Lakes Binational Priorities for Science and Action

Posted: March 3, 2017

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.”

The Governments of Canada and the United States have agreed on the following priorities for science and action that will guide their work under the Agreement for 2017 through 2019.

AnnexPriorities for SciencePriorities for Action
1.       Areas of ConcernImplement monitoring and scientific assessments to verify restoration of beneficial uses prior to delisting.Implement remedial actions to restore beneficial uses in Areas of Concern.
2.    Lakewide ManagementPilot application and testing of the Nearshore Framework.


Field work to address Lake-specific priorities (including consideration of the respective connecting river systems) identified through the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative:
o   Lake Huron 2017: chemicals, nutrients, aquatic food web, physical processes
o   Lake Ontario 2018: nutrients, aquatic food web, chemicals, habitat
o   Lake Erie 2019: priorities to be identified including consideration of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River.

2017- 2019: Implement Lake Superior Lakewide Action Management Plan (LAMP) identified actions to address aquatic invasive species, climate change, dams/barriers, chemicals/substances, habitats, native species, and other threats.


Complete Lake Huron LAMP in 2017 and initiate implementation.

Complete Lake Ontario LAMP in 2017 and initiate implementation.

Complete Lake Erie LAMP in 2018 and initiate implementation.

Complete Lake Michigan LAMP in 2019.

Establish Lake Ecosystem Objectives.

Increase Outreach and Engagement activities of each Lake Partnership.

3.       Chemicals of Mutual Concern (CMCs)Undertake research, monitoring and surveillance activities identified in Binational Strategies in order to address information needs for Chemicals of Mutual Concern (CMCs) in support of future measurement/indicators work.


Coordinate research, monitoring and surveillance activities to provide an early warning for chemicals that could become CMCs.

Continue the development of Binational Strategies that identify cooperative and coordinated measures to reduce anthropogenic inputs of CMCs into the waters of the Great Lakes.


Identify and assess additional substances for consideration as CMCs, while seeking to utilize the data, input and expertise of the Annex 3 stakeholder community.

4.       NutrientsDevelop and implement of monitoring and modeling activities within an adaptive management framework to support tracking and reporting on progress towards achievement of binational phosphorus load reduction targets for Lake Erie.  Efforts will include establishing and coordinating comparable monitoring techniques in tributaries and in the Lake, and improving knowledge on approaches for reducing phosphorus loads from the watershed to Lake Erie.


Research, monitoring and modeling activities to support the assessment and future actions to address algae problems in Lakes Ontario, Huron and Michigan. Will include addressing gaps in our knowledge of nutrient dynamics in these lakes to better understand the distribution and movement of nutrients between nearshore and offshore zones, and the influence of climate change on nutrient inputs or ecosystem response.

Engage all levels of government, stakeholders, Tribes, First Nations and Métis communities in the development of Domestic Action Plans for the reduction of phosphorus loadings to Lake Erie.


Implement Domestic Action Plans.

Establish phosphorus load reduction targets for the eastern basin of Lake Erie.


5.       Discharge from VesselsDevelop compatible approaches to sampling and analysis of ships ballast water in connection with the ballast water performance standard in 33 CFR Part 151 and Regulation D-2 of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004.


Develop a compatible approach to collecting and analyzing data concerning the implementation of the ballast water performance standard on the Great Lakes.

Seek consistency and compatibility between U.S. and Canada during implementation of USCG ballast water discharge standard, EPA’s Vessel General Permit requirements and development of regulations implementing IMO BW Management Convention.


Work together, with stakeholders towards compatible, fair, practicable and environmentally protective Great Lakes requirements for ballast water management.

6.       Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)Determine feasibility and effectiveness of AIS eradication and containment methods to inform rapid response decision making.


Develop technology and methods to achieve effective barriers that prevent the spread of AIS while allowing the movement of other ecosystem components through canals and waterways.

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 and distribution in the Great Lakes, connecting channels, and tributaries.

Refine and enhance the Early Detection and Rapid Response Initiative.


Develop a clearinghouse for AIS species and pathway risk assessments.

7.       Habitat and SpeciesPilot application and testing of the Baseline Habitat Survey on a regional scale in order to refine the approach to measure Net Habitat Gain and guide implementation at a Great Lakes wide scale.


Support continued implementation of the binational Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Program and integrate data into the development of the Baseline Habitat Survey for coastal wetland systems.

Complete a review of gaps and priorities identified by existing Great Lakes habitat and species conservation strategies and strategic plans and develop a binational framework for prioritizing activities to conserve, protect, maintain, restore and enhance native species and habitat on a Great Lakes wide scale.
8.       GroundwaterDevelop better tools to assess groundwater – surface water interaction, including scaled-up models based on local scale assessments, and use them to assess regional-scale flow of groundwater to surface waters in the Great Lakes Basin.


Undertake a focused assessment of the geographic distribution of known and potential sources of groundwater contaminants relevant to Great Lakes water quality, with a focus on nearshore contaminant sources and impacts.

Advance monitoring, surveillance and assessment of groundwater quality in the Great Lakes basin.

9.       Climate Change ImpactsRefine and implement State of the Great Lakes indicators for assessing and reporting on the impacts of climate change.Identify key areas across the issues of the GLWQA where consideration of climate change needs to be considered and integrated into issue strategies and actions.


Review the State of Climate Change Science report with Annex Co-Leads to identify the priority knowledge gaps to be addressed.

Continue to regularly deliver climate information through issuance of the “Great Lakes Climate Summaries and Outlooks”.

10.   ScienceN/AImplement the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative to coordinate planning, delivery and reporting of science in relation to the specific priorities identified through the Lakewide Management process.


Issue the State of the Great Lakes reports (2017); continue to work to improve the suite of Great Lakes indicators.

Examine the application of open data, and data management and sharing for nutrients.

Increase understanding of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and opportunities for application to GLWQA activities.