The Governments of Canada and the United States agree on 2020-2022 Great Lakes Binational Priorities for Science and Action

Posted: March 2, 2021

Pursuant to Article 5, Section 2(c) of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 2012, 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.

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 2020 through 2022.

Annex 1 – Areas of Concern
  • In the U.S., conduct sediment sampling activities necessary for the implementation of sediment remediation projects in Areas of Concern (AOCs), including sampling in the Milwaukee Estuary, Rouge River, and Torch Lake AOCs. In Canada, conduct sampling to support long term monitoring in AOCs, including in the Jackfish Bay AOC, the Spanish Harbour AOC and the St. Lawrence River AOC.
  • In the U.S., conduct monitoring activities to confirm that Beneficial Use Impairments (BUI) removal criteria have been met, including monitoring in the Black River for the Fish Tumor and Other Deformities BUI; Buffalo River for the Degradation of Benthos BUI; and River Raisin for the Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems BUI. In Canada, conduct monitoring activities to confirm that BUI removal criteria have been met, including monitoring in the St Clair River for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife habitat BUI, Toronto AOC for the Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations BUI and the Niagara River and Thunder Bay AOCs for the Beach Closings BUI.
  • In the U.S., implement remedial actions to remove BUIs, including sediment remediation at Spirit Lake in the St. Louis River AOC, sediment remediation at Ryerson Creek in the Muskegon River AOC; coastal marsh restoration at Kingsbury Bay and Grassy Point in the St. Louis River AOC; and Howard Marsh habitat restoration project in the Maumee AOC.
  • In the U.S., complete the delisting process, including the public comment period, for the Lower Menominee River and Ashtabula River AOCs. In Canada, implement remedial actions to restore BUIs including in the St. Lawrence River and Bay of Quinte AOCs for the Eutrophication and undesirable algae BUI, the Detroit River AOC for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat BUI and in the Hamilton Harbour AOC through management of contaminated sediment at Randle Reef.
  • Identify and prioritize AOC management actions using annual domestic strategic planning meetings.
Annex 2 – Lakewide Management
  • In order to support an assessment of the nearshore waters of the Great Lakes:
    • In 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.
  • Establish 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.
  • Include results of the assessment of the nearshore waters in Lakewide Action and Management Plans to assist communities, agencies, and organizations in their identification and implementation of restoration and protection activities for the nearshore waters of the Great Lakes.
  • Updating and Implementing Lakewide Management and Action Plans (LAMPs):
    • Implement actions identified in 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
  • Conduct monitoring and surveillance in Great Lakes environmental media to track trends of CMCs and other priority chemicals.
  • Coordinate research, monitoring and surveillance activities to identify potential chemicals of emerging concern.
  • Through existing programs, including the Chemical Management Plan (Canada) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (U.S.), reduce Chemicals of Mutual Concern (CMCs) in the Great Lakes environment.
  • Implement the management actions identified in the existing Great Lakes Binational Strategies for CMCs and track implementation through the 2022 Progress Report of the Parties.
  • Recognizing that fish consumption is the major Great Lakes route of exposure for bioaccumulative CMCs, U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions will provide fish consumption advisories to minimize potential impacts to human health from these chemicals.
 Annex 4 – Nutrients



  • Update and use watershed loading and aquatic ecosystem models to improve our ability to predict ecosystem response to nutrient load reduction efforts.
  • 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 particulate and 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.
  • Take action to reduce phosphorus through implementation of the binational phosphorus reduction strategy and domestic action plans for Lake Erie.
  • Monitor Lake Eire phosphorus concentrations and report on progress towards achieving the binational phosphorus reduction targets through annual newsletters and webinars, and the triennial Progress Report of the Parties.
  • 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 VesselsMeet annually to share best practices and develop compatible Canadian and US approaches to sampling and analysis of ships’ ballast water.
  • Work toward amending the respective Canadian and US ballast water regulatory regimes, and work together, in consultation with stakeholders, towards compatible, fair, practicable and environmentally protective requirements for ballast water management.
  • Meet annually to share best practices and develop compatible approaches to compliance monitoring, data collection, and analysis of ballast water management in the Great Lakes.
Annex 6 – Aquatic Invasive Species
  • Test technology that prevents the spread of AIS while allowing the movement of other ecosystem components through canals and waterways.
  • Improve the effectiveness of early detection and rapid response activities through the development of a U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Federal Agency Mutual Aid Agreement for Early Detection and Rapid Response that compliments and supports the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers’ Mutual Aid Agreement and other actions.
  • Prevent introductions of new invasive species into the Great Lakes, including Silver Carp, Bighead Carp, and Black Carp.
  • Conduct rapid response actions, including continuing efforts to prevent the establishment of Grass Carp in the Great Lakes.
  • Implement control projects for invasive species already in the Great Lakes basin, including red swamp crayfish, monecious hydrilla, water soldier, water chestnut, and phragmites.
Annex 7 – Habitat and Species



  • Assess coastal environments, with a binational focus on coastal wetlands through the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program (U.S.) and the Assessing and Enhancing the Resilience of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands initiative (Canada), to support protection and restoration efforts and other actions that increase resiliency of coastal habitat and species.
  • Through existing programs, including Canada Nature Fund and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, protect and restore habitat and species that support Great Lakes water quality.
Annex 8 – Groundwater



(See science-related Priority for Action…)
  • Update the 2016 binational groundwater science report entitled Groundwater Science Relevant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: A Status Report, by summarizing new knowledge on groundwater in the Great Lakes region, including an assessment of the geographic distribution of known and potential sources of groundwater contaminants relevant to Great Lakes water quality.
Annex 9 – Climate Change Impacts



  • Improve coordination and knowledge exchange to address climate science gaps in the Great Lakes, including hosting a gathering of experts for a workshop on Climate Change Modeling in the Great Lakes Basin.
  • Produce and share 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” report.
Annex 10 – Science



(See science-related Priorities for Action…)
  • 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.
  • Issue the State of the Great Lakes 2022 Highlights and State of the Great Lakes 2022 Technical Report.
  • Encourage opportunities for sharing Traditional Ecological Knowledge and apply to Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement activities, as appropriate.