TRAVERSE CITY - The United States and Canada are preparing to approve an updated version of a 40-year-old pact that commits both nations to protecting the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was first signed in 1972 and amended most recently in 1987. It identifies dozens of highly contaminated areas needing cleanups and calls for reducing toxic pollution and levels of nutrients that cause algae blooms.
Despite progress in those areas, officials and activists said the lakes face new threats.
Officials from the United States and Canada are expected today to sign an updated version of the 40-year-old Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement that will reflect new dangers facing the lakes, such as invasive species and climate change. (National Park Service photo)
"In the old days, you could see the old pollution, but now it's much more, a lot of air pollution," said Marquette resident Tom Baldini, former chairman of the International Joint Commission, a panel that oversees bodies of water that border both Canada and the United States. "Here we sit on the greatest of the Great Lakes, here in the U.P. and Michigan. What this new agreement does is deal with the questions of erosion, the inconsistent enforcement system. It deals with the habitual nature of it much more effectively and is supposed to deal with invasive species."
The revised agreement will include sections on invasive species such as Asian carp, restoring native species and habitat and preparing coastal communities for climate change.
"We talked about climate change in the '90s" Baldini said. "This year, water levels are down significantly and the water is warmer and that will impact us. ... It is a significant piece of legislation that will impact our lives for a long time."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief Lisa Jackson and Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent were scheduled to sign the new pact at 2 p.m. today at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.