Public Comment Period Open: Draft 2020-2022 Great Lakes Binational Priorities for Science and Action

Posted: July 30, 2019

In accordance to Article 5, Section 2(c) of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Parties (U.S. and Canada):

“…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 proposed the following draft priorities for science and action that will guide their work under the Agreement for 2020 through 2022.

Kindly use the Contact Us page to direct your comments on the draft priorities by August 30, 2019.

Annex 1


Areas of Concern

  • Continue science in Areas of Concern to guide remediation and confirm removal of beneficial use impairments.
  • Continue to implement remedial actions to remove Beneficial Use Impairments and delist Areas of Concerns.
  • Use respective domestic annual strategic planning meetings to prioritize RAP implementation priorities.
Annex 2


Lakewide Management

Nearshore Framework Assessments


  • By 2020, conduct the next National Coastal Condition Assessment in U.S. coastal waters of all Great Lakes.
  • By 2022, complete the Nearshore Assessments and LiDAR topobathymetry for the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.

Establishing Coordinated Science and Monitoring (CSMI) Priorities

  • In 2020, establish science and monitoring priorities for the 2022 Lake Huron CSMI field year.
  • In 2021, establish science and monitoring priorities for the 2023 Lake Ontario CSMI field year.
  • In 2022, establish science and monitoring priorities for the 2024 Lake Erie CSMI field year.
Nearshore Framework Actions


  • Through the lakewide management process, share results of the nearshore assessments as well as tools and approaches that assist communities, agencies, and organizations in their implementation of restoration and protection activities for the nearshore waters of the Great Lakes.

Updating and Implementing Lakewide Management and Action Plans (LAMPs)

  • Continue to implement actions identified in all current LAMPs.
  • Publish the Lake Michigan LAMP in 2020 and initiate implementation.
  • Publish the Lake Superior LAMP in 2021 and initiate implementation.
  • Publish the Lake Huron LAMP in 2022 and initiate implementation.
Annex 3 Chemicals of Mutual Concern
  • Undertake research, monitoring and surveillance of CMCs in environmental media to address information needs identified in the Binational Strategies for CMCs.
  • Coordinate research, monitoring and surveillance activities to provide an early warning for chemicals that could become CMCs.
  • Develop and validate analytical methods to support monitoring, surveillance and/or risk management of CMCs.
  • Continue to implement risk mitigation and management actions identified in the Great Lakes Binational Strategies for CMCs to facilitate reductions in releases of CMCs.
  • Compile and make available Canadian and United States environmental quality guidelines (including federal and provincial or state guidelines and other relevant criteria) for CMCs.
  • Identify and assess additional substances for consideration as CMCs.
  • Track the implementation of binational strategies for CMCs.
Annex 4



  • Monitor and assess the effectiveness of phosphorus reduction actions on improving algae and hypoxia conditions in Lake Erie.
  • Update and apply ecosystem models to improve our ability to predict ecosystem response to nutrient load reductions.
  • Conduct research and monitoring to improve our understanding of:
    • Inter-lake transport and sources of phosphorus in the Huron-Erie Corridor and Niagara River.
    • Factors driving toxicity in harmful algal blooms, including the role of nitrogen.
    • How future climate conditions may affect nutrient conditions in the Lake Erie basin.
    • Techniques for controlling soluble reactive phosphorus.
  • Implement coordinated binational research and monitoring to improve our understanding of factors affecting Cladophora growth and support the development of phosphorus reduction targets, where required.
  • Beginning with Lake Ontario, commence review of GLWQA interim phosphorus concentration and phosphorus loading targets to assess their adequacy for the purpose of meeting Lake Ecosystem Objectives for the other Great Lakes.
  • Continue to implement the binational phosphorus reduction strategy and domestic action plans for Lake Erie.
  • Report on progress towards achieving the binational phosphorus reduction targets through annual newsletters and webinars, the triennial Progress Report of the Parties, and the 5 year review of domestic action plans.
  • Implement adaptive management to ensure new knowledge is incorporated into the planning processes in order to reduce uncertainty and improve the effectiveness of actions taken to reduce phosphorus loads to Lake Erie.
  • By 2020, evaluate Cladophora research findings and determine whether the science is sufficient to establish phosphorus load reduction targets for the eastern basin of Lake Erie.
Annex 5 Discharges from VesselsOver the next 3 years, meet annually to share best practices and:


  • Continue developing compatible Canadian and US approaches to sampling and analysis of ships’ ballast water.
  • Develop compatible approaches to collecting and analyzing data concerning ballast water management on the Great Lakes.
Over the next three years, continue to:


  • Work toward amending the respective Canadian and US ballast water regulatory regimes, and work together, in consultation with stakeholders, towards seeking compatible, fair, practicable and environmentally protective requirements for ballast water management, and
  • Seek consistency and compatibility in compliance monitoring during implementation of U.S. and Canadian ballast water management requirements.
Annex 6 Aquatic Invasive Species
  • 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 Early Detection and Rapid Response coordination including establishing common objectives, common criteria for action, and shared protocols for response.
  • Harmonize risk assessments to best inform regulation and policies for prevention and response to new species and management of pathways and vectors.
  • Identify gaps in State, Provincial, Tribal, First Nation, and Federal AIS policies and regulations. Support the development of coordinated and comprehensive policy or regulatory solutions to fill those gaps and effectively preclude the introduction and distribution of aquatic invasive species into and within the Great Lakes basin.
Annex 7 Habitat and Species
  • Support continued implementation of monitoring, inventories, geospatial mapping and remote sensing of Great Lakes aquatic habitats and species, and the landscape and factors that affect them.
  • Support continued monitoring and research to understand Great Lakes ecosystem function, structure and change so that the management of fisheries and other natural resources, including water, and biodiversity conservation work can adapt to changing conditions.
  • In Canada, complete a vulnerability assessment of coastal wetlands to future climate change impacts using downscaled climate exposure data, new water level projections, integrated wetland sensitivity and response modelling, and spatial analysis of watershed characteristics that influence the ability of coastal wetlands to adapt to future disturbance.
  • In the United States, assess vulnerabilities, adaptability, and responses of high priority species and suitability of their habitats in the Great Lakes Basin to landscape level changes, including those induced by climate change, to identify projected changes in species distributions, population levels, and viability to inform binational conservation actions and decision-making.
  • Integrate data into the development of a baseline habitat survey and establish targets of net habitat gain for select habitat features, starting with coastal wetlands.
  • Complete an assessment of gaps and priorities in binational and domestic programs and initiatives as a means for prioritizing Great Lakes species and habitat science and conservation activities.
  • In Canada, share information on coastal wetland vulnerability with stakeholders and rights holders, explore ways to enhance the resilience of coastal wetlands to climate change impacts, and develop guidance, tools and adaptive measures.
Annex 8 Groundwater
  • Develop 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.


  • Update the 2016 binational groundwater science Report (Groundwater Science Relevant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: A Status Report) by summarizing new knowledge on groundwater in the Great Lakes region.
  • In support of State of the Lakes reporting on the groundwater quality sub-indicator, collate and integrate groundwater monitoring data from various sources to address current spatial data gaps and provide an initial assessment of trends of ambient groundwater quality in the Great Lakes Basin.
  • Summarize information on the current binational status of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in groundwater in the Great Lakes Basin, including identification of known and potentially contaminated sites.
Annex 9


Climate Change Impacts

  • Refine and implement State of the Great Lakes indicators for assessing and reporting on climate change impacts on water quality.
  • Improve coordination and knowledge exchange to address climate science gaps in the Great Lakes by convening discussions on climate projections, integrated modeling and downscaling approaches for the Great Lakes.
  • Identify key areas across the annexes of the GLWQA where climate change is a key factor and explore the integration of climate information into annex workplans, issue strategies and actions.
  • Deliver climate information of relevance to the Agreement to the Great Lakes community, including regularly issuing the binational “Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook” report and the “Annual Climate Trends and Impacts Summary for the Great Lakes Basin”.
Annex 10



  • Implement 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.
    • 2020 Lake Michigan CSMI Field Year
    • 2021 Lake Superior CSMI Field Year
    • 2022 Lake Huron CSMI Field Year
  • Issue the State of the Great Lakes 2022 Highlights and Technical reports.
  • Increase understanding of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and opportunities for application to GLWQA activities.