Forty years ago, the great environmental President Richard Nixon and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau signed the international water quality agreement that brought Lake Erie back to life. Since then the lakes have been invaded by zebra and quagga mussels, the water levels have been dropping, giant carp are sneaking in from Chicago, and ships keep pumping out contaminated ballast water. It was time for an update.
Surprisingly, we got one last week, as Environment Minister Peter Kent and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson approved a new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in Washington.
Given the Canadian government's predilection for firing scientists and cutting back environmental protection, gutting the Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, and the US congress attempts at getting rid of the Clean Water Act and even the EPA, it should be no surprise that many are ambivalent. According to the Globe and Mail,
A spokesman for Great Lakes United, an environmental coalition focused on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, said the changes sound promising – but added that without additional funding to support scientific monitoring in the Great Lakes, they may not make much difference.
“The lakes would be in far better shape today if the [previous] agreement had been implemented,” said John Jackson, the organization’s interim director. “But not enough money, not enough staff time was put into it.”
On the Great Lakes United website, Jackson sounds a little more upbeat.
These revisions were eight years in the making. We hope they will lead to revitalized action from the governments and their partners working together bi-nationally across the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin from Duluth to Québec City. Protection, cleanup and restoration are essential to ensure that we live in a vital, thriving Great Lakes basin. Today we applaud. Tomorrow we get to work.