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GLIN==> Great Lakes United on IJC report

Posted on behalf of Margaret Wooster <wooster@glu.org>

Contact: Margaret Wooster
Executive Director, Great Lakes United

Great Lakes United Responds to IJC 11th Biennial report

September 12  This morning the International Joint Commission released its
Eleventh Biennial Report on government progress towards implementing the
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Great Lakes United applauds the Commission for holding the line on cleaning
up contaminated sediments in the basin, despite pressure from both industry
and governments; and for its call for action to prevent new introductions
of exotic species such as the zebra mussel. However, we are disappointed to
see them waffle on the issue of Great Lakes security and nuclear power.

The biennial report makes it very clear that contaminated sediments remain
"the singular largest pool (of toxic contamination) requiring attention to
prevent further harm to humans, fish and wildlife" and that clear
government commitment to cleaning them up is urgently
needed.  Unfortunately, the IJC has made this recommendation before, and
the governments have responded with underfunded and relatively unspecific
plans.  We would have preferred more specific recommendations for
overcoming some of obstacles that have prevented clean-up, including a
clear refute of industry and government arguments to leave highly
contaminated sediments in place which have undermined cleanup efforts in
communities across the basin.

Great Lakes United commends the recommendations on exotic species, but they
do not go far enough.  Basin governments should make best management
practices for ballast water management mandatory, and establish uniform
performance-based standards immediately as Great Lakes United, and now the
IJC, have asked. However, this dialogue needs to be opened up beyond the
issue of ballast water treatment to the whole question of the costs versus
the benefits of transoceanic ships on the Great Lakes.

With the next State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference coming up in October,
the Commission's insistence on US and Canada investment in measuring and
controlling sources of persistent toxic substances is especially
timely.  Great Lakes United wholeheartedly agrees with the Commission that
the SOLEC process is currently awash in indicator categories with little or
no useful data in them.  Basin governments need to focus on core
indicators  drinkability, swimmability and fishability (fish safe to
eat)  through increased monitoring and database coordination so that actual
trends are clearly visible to the public and to decision-makers.

Although the report opens with a reference to protecting the Great Lakes as
an international security issue, it fails in the end to deal with perhaps
the greatest threat to this ecosystem: the relicensing of aging nuclear
power plants and the proliferation of nuclear waste in this region.  The
IJC essentially concludes by telling us it would be worse if all this
energy was being produced by coal-fired plants. This is equivalent to
saying to the Great Lakes public "choose your poison" and not worthy of the

Finally, something left unsaid in the report, is that of the six required
IJC Commissioners (three U.S.; three Canadian) only four are currently
seated.  The Great Lakes are the largest surface water supply on earth, and
the responsibility of international oversight is substantial.  The U. S.
administration should fill its two vacancies immediately.

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