The Governments of Canada and the United States agree on 2023-2025 Great Lakes Binational Priorities for Science and Action

Posted: March 17, 2023

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 have agreed on the following priorities for science and action that will guide their work under the Agreement for 2023 through 2025.

Annex 1 – Areas of ConcernConduct sediment sampling.

  • 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 Detroit River, Grand Calumet River and Niagara River AOCs.
  • In Canada, conduct sediment sampling activities necessary for the implementation of sediment remediation projects in AOCs including Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Niagara River, and St. Lawrence River AOCs.
Conduct monitoring to confirm beneficial use impairment (BUI) criteria have been met.

  • In the U.S., conduct monitoring activities to confirm that BUI removal criteria have been met in the following AOCs: Waukegan Harbor for the Restrictions on Fish Consumption BUI; River Raisin for the Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproduction Problems BUI; Muskegon Lake for the Degradation of Benthos BUI; and Black River for the Degradation of Fish Populations, Benthos, and Loss of Fish Habitat BUIs.
  • In Canada, conduct monitoring activities to confirm that BUI delisting criteria have been met in AOCs, including: Jackfish Bay and Niagara River for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat BUI; Thunder Bay and St. Marys River for the Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations BUI; Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River for the Eutrophication and Undesirable Algae BUI.
Implement remedial actions.

  • In the U.S., implement remedial actions to remove BUIs, including sediment remediation actions at the Clinton River, Cuyahoga River, Detroit River, Rouge River, Maumee and Grand Calumet River AOCs; and habitat restoration actions at the Grand Calumet River, Niagara River, Detroit River, and Maumee River AOCs.
  • In Canada, implement remedial actions to remove BUIs, including sediment remediation actions at the Hamilton Harbour AOC (Randle Reef) and Port Hope Harbour AOCs; habitat restoration actions in the Detroit River, Hamilton Harbour, St Marys River and Thunder Bay AOCs; and nutrient reduction actions at the Hamilton Harbour, Toronto, Bay of Quinte, and St. Lawrence River AOCs.
Complete delisting processes.

  • In the U.S., complete the delisting process, including the public comment period, for the Rochester Embayment and Muskegon Lake AOCs.
  • In Canada, finalize the Nipigon Bay RAP Completion Report and undertake a process to engage local governments, First Nations, Metis and the public in the delisting of this AOC.
Annex 2 – Lakewide ManagementEstablish Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) Priorities:

  • By the end of 2023, establish science and monitoring priorities for the 2025 Lake Michigan CSMI field year
  • By the end of 2024, establish science and monitoring priorities for the 2026 Lake Superior CSMI field year.
  • By the end of 2025, establish science and monitoring priorities for the 2027 Lake Huron CSMI field year.
Implement actions identified in existing Lakewide Management and Action Plans (LAMPs).

Update and publish LAMPs:

  • By the end of 2023, update and publish the Lake Ontario LAMP.
  • By the end of 2024, update and publish the Lake Erie LAMP.
  • By the end of 2025, update and publish the Lake Michigan LAMP.
Enhance opportunities for public engagement in the development and implementation of LAMP activities.
Annex 3 – Chemicals of Mutual ConcernConduct monitoring and surveillance in Great Lakes environmental media to track trends of Chemicals of Mutual Concern (CMCs) and other priority chemicals, enhance these efforts through the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative, and communicate results.
Coordinate research, monitoring and surveillance activities to address information gaps and needs for existing CMCs.
Implement strategies to reduce CMCs in the Great Lakes environment, including through the Chemical Management Plan (Canada) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and Toxic Substances Control Act (U.S.).
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 and raise awareness about the risks to minimize potential impacts to human health, including vulnerable populations.
By the end of 2023, complete the criteria-based screening of the CMC nomination for PAHs, sulphates, and lead.
By the end of 2024, complete the criteria-based screening of the CMC nomination for radionuclides.
Annex 4 – Nutrients(General to all Lakes)
Improve our understanding of factors affecting nuisance and harmful algae growth in the Great Lakes, particularly in nearshore areas.

Lake Erie

  • Improve tracking and reporting on phosphorus loads to Lake Erie and the extent of harmful algal blooms.
  • Improve hypoxia assessment methods.
  • Explore the feasibility of a toxicity prediction model for harmful algal blooms.
  • Conduct edge-of-field and in-stream research and monitoring to improve our understanding of phosphorus retention on the landscape and techniques for controlling and trapping phosphorus.
Lake Ontario

  • Conduct coordinated monitoring and modeling to improve understanding of phosphorus inputs, fate, and transport in Lake Ontario.
  • By 2025, update binational estimates of annual phosphorus loads to Lake Ontario.

Lake Erie

  • All jurisdictions continue to take action and make progress towards achieving phosphorus load reduction targets for Lake Erie.
  • Improve communication and engage stakeholders on progress towards achieving Lake Erie phosphorus load reduction targets and Lake Ecosystem Objectives (LEOs).
Lake Ontario

  • By the end of 2023, complete the review of interim phosphorus load targets for Lake Ontario.
  • By the end of 2025, identify locations where management actions may be needed to address nearshore algae issues in Lake Ontario.
Annex 5 – Discharges from VesselsUse best available science to examine effectiveness of greywater discharge requirements in preparation for U.S. and Canadian domestic regulations.
Conduct coordinated binational ballast water and biofouling Aquatic Invasive Species research through interagency strategic project planning and sharing of latest results.

Undertake and collaborate on research and development regarding technical challenges to the use of ballast water management systems on the Great Lakes.
Examine risk to the Great Lakes from wash water discharges related to exhaust gas recirculation and exhaust gas cleaning systems discharges (aka scrubbers).
Continue to work together and with stakeholders towards increased compatibility and environmental protection in ballast water requirements and, where possible, develop common implementation approaches.
Use the Canadian/U.S. Ballast Water Working Group to maximize consistent and compatible compliance monitoring of Canadian and U.S. ballast water rules.
Share best management practices and develop agreements for the compliance and enforcement of wastewater discharge regimes, which may include sampling, for greywater and sewage under MARPOL Annex IV.
Review and share best practices and available technologies for control and management of vessel biofouling.
Annex 6 – Aquatic Invasive SpeciesResearch and identify opportunities to utilize, where feasible, technology that prevents the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) while allowing the movement of other ecosystem components through canals and waterways.
Develop and evaluate early AIS detection technologies and methods, including eDNA and genetic barcoding.
Research and develop technologies and methods for control and eradication of AIS.
Prevent introductions of new invasive species into the Great Lakes, including silver carp, bighead carp, and black carp, and other species identified through risk screening and assessment.
Enhance early detection for invasive carps and for other high-risk aquatic invasive species.
Conduct response actions to prevent the establishment of grass carp and other high-risk species 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.
Identify gaps in current AIS policies and regulations and reduce the risk of pathways into and within the Great Lakes basin.
Collaboratively update the list of “Least Wanted” highest-risk species for the Great Lakes basin.
Annex 7 – Habitat and SpeciesAssess coastal environments, with a binational focus on coastal wetlands through the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program (U.S.) and the Canadian Coastal Baseline Habitat Survey (Canada), to support protection and restoration efforts and other actions that increase resiliency of native species and their coastal habitat.Through existing programs, including the Nature Fund (Canada) and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (U.S.), implement actions to protect and restore the resilience of native species and their habitats with a focus on activities that restore and maintain natural hydrology and water quality.
Annex 8 – GroundwaterConduct research to identify and understand point and non-point sources of pollution that impact the Great Lakes due to transport via groundwater.
Annex 9 –
Climate Change Impacts
In collaboration with Annex 2, enhance Lakewide Action and Management Plans by including the most recent assessment of climate change for the lake such as current climate trends, and best available information of projected future change and impacts.Foster and enhance knowledge exchange and discussions on Great Lakes climate projections, integrated modeling, and downscaling approaches for Great Lakes resource managers.
Produce and share climate information of relevance to the Agreement with 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 – ScienceImplement the binational 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. (Lake Ontario 2023, Lake Erie 2024, Lake Michigan 2025).Issue the State of the Great Lakes 2025 Report.
In collaboration with Tribes, First Nations and Metis, increase understanding and consideration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, including by updating, as appropriate, the Guidance Document on Traditional Ecological Knowledge Pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.