Lake Erie Binational Site
Lakewide Management Plans
Lake Erie Binational Site
Committees and Subcommittees
Introduction and Concept Paper
In Spring 1993, the United States and Canada began the initial phases of planning for the development of a Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) in accordance with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The goal of the LaMP is the restoration and protection of the beneficial uses of Lake Erie. In order to organize these efforts, a temporary Implementation Committee was formed at a meeting in April 1993. U.S. EPA Region 5 and Environment Canada have been serving as the Federal co-leads for this initial effort. In the United States, the State of Ohio has served as the lead State, with participation from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. In Canada, other participating agencies have been the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy.
A concept paper (text is provided below) was prepared by the Implementation Committee to provide a framework upon which LaMP activities could be built. In order to reach LaMP goals, the Implementation Committee has agreed that the Lake Erie LaMP must fulfill the obligation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to address critical pollutants, including toxic pollutants. There is also agreement that the integrity of the Lake Erie ecosystem may not be fully protected or restored until other factors (such as habitat loss and exotic species) are addressed as well.
The Implementation Committee viewed the Lake Erie LaMP structure and process as an opportunity to address these other factors. Therefore, the concept paper explains that the Lake Erie LaMP will go beyond the requirement of a LaMP for critical pollutants, and will use an ecosystem approach,integrating environmental protection and natural resource management. In defining the scope of the LaMP's approach, the concept paper uses the term "environmental stressor" to cover all influences on the beneficial uses of the Lake Erie ecosystem that will be dealt with through the LaMP. This approach will require all participating agencies and jurisdictions to work together, utilizing their respective authorities and responsibilities, to implement the LaMP.
I. Lake Erie LaMP Goals
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) of 1978, as amended in 1987, was signed by the governments of the United States and Canada in order to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem." One of the programs designed to reach the goals of the GLWQA is the development and implementation of a Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) for each lake. Annex 2, Section 2, of the GLWQA states that LaMPs "shall embody a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting beneficial uses...in open lake waters." Fourteen impairments of beneficial uses are listed in Annex 2, Section 1, and establish the basis of LaMP efforts. (See Appendix A for a listing of these 14 beneficial-use impairments.)
In accordance with the GLWQA, the goal of the Lake Erie LaMP is to restore and protect the beneficial uses of Lake Erie, with a focus on the 14 beneficial-use impairments listed in the Agreement. Ecosystem objectives specific to Lake Erie will be established to guide LaMP efforts toward defined endpoints. Based on these ecosystem objectives, the LaMP will provide a binational structure for establishing joint commitments for reducing, eliminating, or preventing sources of beneficial-use impairments. Once established, these commitments will influence or direct a variety of existing environmental programs that affect Lake Erie. In addition, the LaMP may recommend or establish new programs to help meet ecosystem objectives for Lake Erie.
II. Scope of the Lake Erie LaMP
A. Scope of Environmental Stressors to be Addressed
Environmental stressors are those factors which cause or have the potential to cause any of the 14 impairments of beneficial uses of Lake Erie (as defined in the GLWQA). These factors include chemical, physical, and biological influences on the Lake Erie ecosystem, as well as management practices. The scope of environmental stressors to be addressed by the Lake Erie LaMP will be determined by three methods: 1) language in the GLWQA; 2) other known stressors; and 3) a full assessment of the 14 beneficial-use impairments.
The GLWQA (Annex 2, Section 6) states that LaMPs shall be designed to reduce loadings of Critical Pollutants in order to restore beneficial uses," and describes specific activities necessary to address critical pollutants. An evaluation of critical pollutants is an essential component of the Lake Erie LaMP. (Critical pollutants are those pollutants, including toxic pollutants, which are causing or have the potential to cause impairments of beneficial uses [Annex 2, Section 1 (b), of the GLWQA].)
However, the GLWQA also requires an ecosystem approach to the protection and restoration of beneficial uses of the Great Lakes. Beneficial uses of Lake Erie may not be restored or protected until stressors other than critical pollutants are considered as well. It is currently accepted by a variety of Lake Erie experts that loss of habitat and the invasion of exotic species are also important stressors to the Lake Erie ecosystem. In addition, the full scope of additional stressors to be included in the Lake Erie LaMP will be determined through an assessment of the 14 beneficial-use impairments. These other stressors will be addressed by the Lake Erie LaMP, consistent with the participating jurisdictions' authorities and responsibilities. The stressors addressed by the Lake Erie LaMP may not necessarily be of equal priority to all agencies within each of the jurisdictions involved in the management of the Lake Erie LaMP, and not all of the jurisdictions involved will be legally or financially capable of addressing all of the identified stressors. It should also be recognized that each of the jurisdictions and agencies involved in the Lake Erie LaMP has specific legal mandates and responsibilities that must be honored, independent of LaMP efforts. However, it is expected that establishing joint commitments (though not necessarily identical commitments) for the participating jurisdictions through the LaMP structure will enhance the ability of all involved to effectively protect and restore the Lake Erie ecosystem. (See Appendix B for a list of major legislations and policies that further support the goals and scope of the Lake Erie LaMP.)
B. Geographic Scope
The GLWQA mandates LaMP development for the "open lake waters." In order to ensure restoration and protection of beneficial uses, areas in addition to open lake waters must be included as well. This is consistent with an ecosystem approach. In order to clearly explain the geographic scope of the LaMP, three aspects of the geographic scope need to be defined: the area within which beneficial use impairments will be assessed, the location of stressors causing or contributing to beneficial use impairments, and the scope of management actions.
Assessment of beneficial-use impairments. Beneficial-use impairments will be assessed within the waters of Lake Erie, including open waters, nearshore areas, embayments, and river mouths.
Location of stressors. It is also recognized that stressors which cause or have the potential to cause beneficial-use impairments may be located beyond the waters and shoreline of Lake Erie. Such stressors may originate within the land areas of the Lake Erie drainage basin, within tributaries to Lake Erie, in the connecting channels, or even beyond the Great Lakes basin.
Scope of management actions. The LaMP will address stressors causing or having the potential to cause beneficial-use impairments, regardless of the geographic location of the stressors. The ability of the LaMP process to identify and implement management actions to address these stressors will vary.
Lake Erie LaMP activities will be closely coordinated with other related initiatives, such as Remedial Action Plans for Areas of Concern (also required under the GLWQA) within the Lake Erie drainage basin, as well as other environmental and natural-resource programs that could influence the ecosystem integrity of Lake Erie. Specifically, the LaMP will benefit from information acquired from these other programs. Also, although it is not the intent of the Lake Erie LaMP to revisit decisions made by these other programs, it is likely that new information on lakewide conditions provided by the LaMP will influence future decisions of these other programs. Therefore, as management actions are identified, the LaMP will also identify the appropriate institutions to implement these actions.
Lake Erie LaMP activities will also be coordinated with programs downstream of Lake Erie that are influenced by Lake Erie waters, for example, the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan and the Lake Ontario LaMP.
III. Management of the Lake Erie LaMP
The development and implementation of the Lake Erie LaMP requires the cooperation of two Federal governments, four States, one Province, and several Tribal governments, each of which has distinct laws, regulations, programs, and policies governing their actions. Other levels of government will be consulted as appropriate. In addition to cooperation among the governmental jurisdictions, the GLWQA requires that these jurisdictions ensure the public is consulted on LaMP activities (Annex 2, Section 2[e]).
In order to organize the management structure for the Lake Erie LaMP, a temporary implementation committee has formed to initiate LaMP activities. This committee consists of representatives from U.S. EPA; the States of Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania; Environment Canada; the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Agriculture Canada; Ontario Ministry of Energy and Environment; and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. U.S. EPA Region 5 and Environment Canada are co-leads for this initial effort, and U.S. EPA is working closely with the State of Ohio as lead State for the LaMP. This committee has recommended the following management structure for the Lake Erie LaMP:
A. Management Committee
A senior-level binational Lake Erie LaMP Management Committee will be formed with the following responsibilities:
- approve recommendations for short-term actions and long-term objectives,
- approve time frames for action as appropriate,
- assign and issue charge to Work Group,
- oversee conflict resolution procedures, and
- review and approve LaMP documents.
Potential members of the Management Committee include senior-level managers from Federal, Provincial, State, and Tribal governments with responsibilities for water quality, fish and wildlife, agriculture, human health, research, and land-use planning.
U.S. EPA and Environment Canada will serve as co-chairs of the first Management Committee meeting, scheduled for Fall 1994.
B. Work Group
A binational Work Group will be formed at the staff level from the jurisdictions that serve on the Management Committee, with the following responsibilities:
- identify short-term actions and long-term objectives, including assessment and abatement, remediation, prevention, and the development of sound science necessary to protect and restore beneficial uses;
- establish time frames for action; develop workplans;
- set priorities;
- convene and coordinate work of subcommittees organized around specific issues, including making recommendations to the Management Committee based on subcommittee work;
- ensure implementation of approved actions;
- identify environmental and programmatic indicators to measure success, specific to Lake Erie;
- coordinate LaMP activities with existing programs;
- prepare LaMP documents;
- establish information management systems for storing and evaluating data, and determine how data is collected;
- establish systems for the management of documents and mailing lists; and
- oversee public participation, including the formation or confirmation of a Lake Erie Forum.
Subcommittees will be formed around specific issues as needed. The subcommittees will have the responsibility to make recommendations to the Work Group, and will not be final decision-making bodies. Therefore, these subcommittees may have representation from outside the jurisdictions involved in the Management Committee, including independent experts and members of the public.
Statement of purpose for public involvement activities: The LaMP will best serve the public interest if agencies (LaMP Work Group and Management Committee, etc.) and the public consider a variety of opinions throughout the course of LaMP development and implementation. In addition, agencies participating in the LaMP are accountable for ensuring that public involvement is an important aspect of the Lake Erie LaMP. Therefore, LaMP public involvement activities are needed to foster effective two-way communication with the diverse population of the Lake Erie basin in Canada and the United States, as well as with other interested members of the public outside the basin.
Approach: To develop a three tier public involvement process for the Lake Erie LaMP:
Tier 1 - A Lake Erie Binational Forum would be established as a formal public body to provide advice and input in the development and implementation of the LaMP. The Forum would be the most involved level of public participation, and would consist of a number of individuals, representing various interests and geographic areas from around the Lake Erie basin. It would have binational representation and its activities would be facilitated by the Parties (Work Group and Management Committee).
Tier 2 - This group would represent those individuals or groups (including non-governmental organizations and industries) not represented on Tier 1, who have an interest in attending meetings and open houses and who have requested that their name be added to LaMP mailing lists. Their level of involvement may vary. Members of this tier could be formally recognized through inclusion of all the names on a mailing list (post or electronic mail) and referred to as the Lake Erie Network or a similar title. This level would be provided with information on an ongoing basis and would be welcome to provide comments to the Forum, Work Group, and Management Committee.
Tier 3 - This level consists of the general public who are not familiar with the work being done on the Lake Erie LaMP, and who do not attend meetings or seek information. In order to seek this group's input, the Parties have to be active and send information to them through mass media channels, advertisements, or direct mailings. Efforts to ensure awareness of the LaMP must continue even if responses are not immediately forthcoming. As interest is shown, individuals or groups who come forward could then be included in the Tier 2 level.
Annual and multi-year workplans will be established to guide and provide accountability for LaMP activities. A staged approach will be used to study, remediate, and prevent impairments of beneficial uses. Different geographic areas and different issues will receive varying levels of attention at different stages of LaMP development, based on the state of knowledge of stressors to the Lake Erie ecosystem, as well as jurisdictional authorities. Not all jurisdictions will necessarily be focusing on the same geographic areas and issues at the same time, especially during the early stages of LaMP development, but will share information on activities and priorities through the Work Group and Management Committee.
Many LaMP activities may be concurrent, and the action (or lack thereof) on any item does not preclude action on anything else. It is expected that several short-term actions can be initiated under existing programs, while long term plans are developed. A series of LaMP documents will be prepared at various stages of the LaMP process. These documents will be released to the public for review and comment, and will be submitted to the International Joint Commission, as required under Annex 2, Section 6, of the GLWQA.
VI. Measures of Success
The Lake Erie Work Group and Management Committee will develop measures of success for Lake Erie LaMP activities, based on defined ecosystem objectives. These measures will include both administrative measures of programs, as well as environmental measurements that are used as indicators of success. Such measures will allow both the Management Committee and the public to evaluate LaMP activities at all stages, and recommend revisions or new strategies as needed.
Appendix A: Beneficial Use Impairments
From the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Annex 2, Section 1 (c):
"Impairment of beneficial use(s)" means a change in the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the Great Lakes System sufficient to cause any of the following.
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Fish tumors or other deformities
- Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
- Degradation of benthos
- Restrictions on dredging activities
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae
- Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor problems
- Beach closings
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Added costs to agriculture or industry
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
Appendix B: Major Legislation and Policies Specifically Supporting Implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
Many laws and policies governing environmental and natural resource management programs benefit the Great Lakes. The following list refers only to those laws and policies that specifically reference the GLWQA.
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), Section 118(a) (1) (B), states that "the United States should seek to attain the goals embodied in the GLWQA of 1918 with particular emphasis on goals related to toxic pollutants." Section 118(a) (1) © states that the U.S. EPA "should take the lead in the effort to meet those goals, working with other Federal agencies and State and local authorities."
Section 103 of the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990 amended Section 118 (a) (3) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act by adding, among other changes, a paragraph (I) as follows: "'Lakewide Management Plan' means a written document which embodies a systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach to restoring and protecting the beneficial uses of the open waters of each of the Great Lakes, in accordance with Article VI and Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement."
State of Ohio, Chapter 1506 of the Ohio Revised Code, establishes the Ohio Lake Erie Office and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission to ensure the implementation of a basin wide approach to Lake Erie issues. Chapter 1506.20(f) states that the Lake Erie Office shall "assist in the development and implementation of the coastal management program and other Lake Erie programs, such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Great Lakes Toxic Substances Control Agreement."
In Canada, the two primary programs focused on achieving the goals set out in the 1981 Great Lakes Water Quality are the Great Lakes 2000 program and the Canada-Ontario Agreement.
The Great Lakes 2000 program is a 6-year program focused on three main areas: restoration of degraded sites, prevention and control of pollution, and conservation and protection of human and ecosystem health. This program adopts a broad-based ecosystem approach with an emphasis on Lakewide Management Plans.
The Canada-Ontario Agreement is a 6-year work-sharing agreement between the Federal government and the Province of Ontario, which further enables Canada to respond to its commitments under the Canadian-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The agreement focuses on areas of concern, action on persistent toxic chemicals, commitments to prepare Lakewide Management Plans, confirmation of the Lake Superior Zero Discharge Demonstration Initiative, reporting on progress, and support for binational actions.