Tag: Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

The Unfulfilled Promise of ‘Zero Discharge’ into Public Waters

Above: Aerial view of White Lake near Montague, Michigan, with Duck Lake visible to the south. (Photo/Doc Searls)


By Tanya Cabala

I was a young adult before I knew anything about the Clean Water Act, its passage in 1972, its relationship to my community, or even its initial promise of “zero discharge,” still unfulfilled to this day. 

The lack of good environmental laws, and lax oversight and enforcement of the weak laws we had, gave rise to the unfortunate circumstances people in my community encountered as chemical companies and municipalities discharged wastes into our local West Michigan lake—White Lake the Beautiful, as I and some other locals call it, going all the back to a tannery in 1865 and then the infamous Hooker Chemical Company in the 1950s.

Citizens eventually prevailed when the Clean Water Act was nearly a decade old, and then others, including me, took up the banner and advocated for the cleanup of White Lake for several decades, eventually succeeding and getting it removed from a list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern in 2014. 

Tanya Cabala and her dogs at home near White Lake in West Michigan (Photo courtesy of Tanya Cabala)

Some people finally rose up to protest in the 1970s, and were told to be quiet to keep jobs in the community. Citizens eventually prevailed when the Clean Water Act was nearly a decade old, and then others, including me, took up the banner and advocated for the cleanup of White Lake for several decades, eventually succeeding and getting it removed from a list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern in 2014. 

Taking Direct Action for Zero Discharge

I was recently in Traverse City, and as I drove along Grand Traverse Bay, I remembered the fall of 1991, when I was standing right there, with many others, calling for zero discharge of pollutants into public waters, for once and for all. As a new staffer then for the Lake Michigan Federation (now the Alliance for the Great Lakes), I marched along the bay, listened to speakers with all the Great Lakes groups present, and attended the meetings of the International Joint Commission, the binational panel of appointees overseeing the U.S. and Canadian governments’ implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

I was glad for the visit by Greenpeace activists and for the campaign, as it put the term “zero discharge” into the news, and into the vernacular. I was not one to scale a smokestack, but I could understand how groups taking direct action could benefit the work I was doing.

It was the second such biennial meeting open to the public, and there was great interest in attending. Greenpeace, the international environmental organization, was in attendance, the final stop of its Great Lakes campaign for zero discharge, after having visited my community near White Lake, scaling the smokestack of the local paper mill, and unfurling a zero discharge banner. They were arrested, and it made news. I was glad for the visit by Greenpeace activists and for the campaign, as it put the term “zero discharge” into the news, and into the vernacular. I was not one to scale a smokestack, but I could understand how groups taking direct action could benefit the work I was doing.

Finally we could say the words, “zero discharge,” and hopefully get more work done in our own communities. In Traverse City, Greenpeace unfurled another banner from the top of the Grand Traverse Resort where the meetings were held, and group members  stalked the meetings indoors wearing animal head costumes. Again, I was not one to do this, but I could see clearly how it pushed the agenda for us all in the right direction. It provided a necessary complement to those, like me, providing their testimony in more of the expected (and less interesting) manner.

Teach Your Children Well

I am much older now, but still working as an activist, still hoping to see the changes we need, the progress we need. I won’t deny there have been many successes with the Clean Water Act in place. But still, the zero discharge promise is unfulfilled as polluted runoff from land continues, and new water quality problems like PFAS emerge (amid the crisis of climate change exacerbating it all), threatening my White Lake the Beautiful, my community’s lake, my children’s and grandchildren’s future. (And the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to “shrink” the power and promise of the Clean Water Act).

We need to teach them—our children and grandchildren—well while they are young. We need to keep what we have regained. And we need to consider all the ways that we can work together, most especially through direct action. We need to act like we are in a crisis. Because we are.

We need to teach them—our children and grandchildren—well while they are young. We need to keep what we have regained, our clean White Lake, and all the other rivers and lakes restored to good health. And we need to consider all the ways that we can work together, most especially through direct action. We need to act like we are in a crisis. Because we are.


About the author: Tanya Cabala lives in her childhood home in Whitehall, Michigan, in northern Muskegon County, with her two dogs, Bella and Barney. A grandmother and the Lakeshore Outreach Organizer for West Michigan Environmental Action Council, she is delighted to be working with energetic movers and shakers along the West Michigan lakeshore, educating on protecting water and encouraging action on climate change.

Clean Water: It’s About Holding Officials Accountable

Editor’s note — See FLOW’s additional coverage of the Clean Water Act and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement here:


By Lana Pollack

As the Clean Water Act turns 50 years old today—on October 18, 2022—I’m reminded that this notable birthday is shared with another milestone environmental achievement, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). This U.S.–Canada accord, which started out as a limited commitment to address excessive phosphorus in just two of the Great Lakes, grew into scores of ambitious binational programs that today encompass the entire Great Lakes Basin.

Lana Pollack is former chair of U.S. Section of the IJC and a former three-term state senator.

Driven by the visionary goals of the Clean Water Act and Canadian laws, the GLWQA has morphed into the driver of a long overdue, costly cleanup of the Great Lakes’ 44 most highly contaminated sites, along with recognition of both countries’ obligation to prevent further degradation of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

This dual semi-centennial celebration begs for honest assessments of Clean Water Act and Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement achievements and failures.

The successes of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws and programs it inspired, are legion. But stubborn problems persist.

I’m old enough to recall remarkable “before and after” achievements gifted to us by Clean Water Act prohibitions and accountability measures. Rivers and lakes that were previously untouchable, are now favorite sites for swimming and kayaking. The successes of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws and programs it inspired, are legion. But stubborn problems persist—many of them from non-point source agricultural pollution and others from mining, plating, and military operations. 

I know the power of polluting interests, and recognize that further protection of Great Lakes Basin waters will be achieved only when voters hold their elected officials accountable for the pollution that persists in defiling those waters.

Having worked in the world of politics, I know the power of polluting interests, and recognize that further protection of Great Lakes Basin waters will be achieved only when voters hold their elected officials accountable for the pollution that persists in defiling those waters.


About the author: Lana Pollack is former chair of U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission and a former three-term state senator who sponsored Michigan’s “polluter pay” law.

Considering Michigan’s Orphaned Resource—Inland Lakes—on the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

Bass Lake in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Photo/Kelly Thayer)

Editor’s note—See FLOW’s additional coverage of the Clean Water Act and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement here:


By Ralph Bednarz

Ralph Bednarz is a retired State of Michigan limnologist.

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, is an opportune time to look at the law’s Clean Lakes Program. It was enacted as Section 314 of the Act and implemented in 1976 to address the degraded conditions of the nation’s inland lakes.

Congress has appropriated no funds for the Clean Lakes Program since 1995, even though 45% of the nation’s lakes continue to be in poor condition as a result of nutrient enrichment and other stressors, according to the most recent National Lakes Assessment.

The Clean Lakes Program provided funds to help assess the water quality of lakes in a state or tribal jurisdiction, conduct diagnostic feasibility studies to identify the causes of pollution in the lake, implement projects to mitigate the problems, and carry out post-restoration monitoring studies. The Clean Lakes Program awarded $145 million in grants through 1995. But Congress has appropriated no funds for the Clean Lakes Program since 1995, even though 45% of the nation’s lakes continue to be in poor condition as a result of nutrient enrichment and other stressors, according to the most recent National Lakes Assessment.

Michigan is a lake-rich state with approximately 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and more than 11,000 inland lakes. Michigan’s history of lakes management dates back to the early 1900s, along with fisheries management and the desire to culture and stock fish in Michigan lakes and streams. However, prior to the passage of the Clean Water Act and the implementation of the Clean Lakes program, little water chemistry data had been collected on Michigan lakes, which hampered understanding and documentation of status and trends in lake water quality.

Michigan is a lake-rich state with approximately 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and more than 11,000 inland lakes.

Michigan initiated a systematic effort in 1973 to monitor the quality of its inland lakes. However, by 1979 only 300 lakes had been sampled due to budget and staff constraints. Additional Clean Lakes Program funding became available to the states in 1980 as one-time grants for inventorying and classifying publicly owned freshwater lakes according to trophic or biological condition. Michigan was awarded a lake classification grant in 1980, which was the catalyst that launched Michigan’s inland lakes water quality monitoring and assessment programs. In addition to the lake classification grant support, Michigan was awarded 16 individual project grants: seven diagnostic-feasibility studies awards, eight restoration and protection implementation projects awards, and one post-restoration, monitoring studies award.

Another important section of the Clean Water Act is the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program, established in the 1987 Amendments to the Act. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground, where it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and groundwater.

The 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act shows the work is far from done, especially for inland lakes.

Since 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been providing financial support to states and tribes through Section 319 grants to implement their nonpoint source management programs. The EPA has encouraged states and tribes to use Section 319 funds to support the Clean Lakes work previously funded under the Section 314 Clean Lakes Program. The use of Section 319 funds to support lakes-related projects varies widely by state and tribe, but it has been reported in the range of 5-19%. Michigan does not track individual lake watershed projects supported with Section 319 grant funds.

There is support for expanding the implementation of the Clean Lakes Program by adding a “healthy lakes” component to protect high quality lakes and to prioritize lakes with significant cultural heritage value, as well as lakes in communities where there are environmental justice concerns.

The 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act shows the work is far from done, especially for inland lakes. The North American Lakes Management Society (NALMS) is calling for an “enhanced” Section 314 Clean Lakes Program with restored funding. NALMS is advocating for expanding the implementation of the Clean Lakes Program by adding a “healthy lakes” component to protect high quality lakes and to prioritize lakes with significant cultural heritage value, as well as lakes in communities where there are environmental justice concerns. An “enhanced” Section 314 Clean Lakes Program also will need to be fully integrated with other Clean Water Act tools, such as the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program, Section 106 Water Pollution Control Grants, and the ongoing National Lakes Assessment.


About the author: Ralph Bednarz is a limnologist who retired after a 35-year career in environmental protection and water resources management with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Bednarz managed Michigan’s inland lakes water quality monitoring programs. He was responsible for the implementation of the 2007 and 2012 National Lakes Assessment in Michigan, and he served as a national trainer for the 2012 assessment.

Where Do We Stand on the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act?

Fresh water and aquatic plant life shine on October 2, 2022, in southeastern Grand Traverse County, Mich. (Photo/Kelly Thayer)


When Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969—the same year Michigan’s Rouge River blazed because of waste oil—America had had enough of worsening water pollution. Public opinion strongly favored tougher laws and enforcement to protect water.

Responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act in Michigan, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is hosting three webinars to educate and celebrate the Act’s accomplishments over the last 50 years. Learn more.

It took a little more than three years, but on October 18, 1972, overriding a veto by President Richard Nixon, Congress enacted what has come to be known as the federal Clean Water Act. Along with considerable federal aid for construction of municipal sewage treatment facilities, the Act called for water quality standards and action by the states to implement the law and achieve the benchmarks.

Where do we stand on the 50th anniversary of this landmark law — the Clean Water Act?

Where do we stand on the 50th anniversary of this landmark law?

The Act resulted in dramatic, initial progress. Visible pollution in the nation’s lakes and streams declined. The reduction in algal blooms achieved by restricting phosphorus pollution restored the health of Lake Erie, which had been declared dead by the news media. Rivers no longer burned. Many beaches were safe and attractive for swimming again.

The ambitious Act set the goal of rendering all of the nation’s waters fishable and swimmable by 1983, and for the end of water pollution discharges by 1985—goals that are far from being met today.

But the Act was ambitious. It set the goal of rendering all of the nation’s waters fishable and swimmable by 1983, and for the end of water pollution discharges by 1985—goals that are far from being met today.

According to a 2017 report to Congress by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • Rivers and streams—A 2008 assessment found that 46% of U.S. river and stream miles were in poor biological condition; phosphorus and nitrogen were the most widespread of the chemical stressors assessed.
  • Lakes, ponds, and reservoirs—The National Lakes Assessment 2012 found that 21% of the nation’s lakes were hypereutrophic (i.e., with the highest levels of nutrients, algae, and plants). Phosphorus and nitrogen were the most widespread stressors in lakes.
  • Coastal waters—According to a 2010 study, 18% of the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes waters were in poor biological condition, and 14% were rated poor based on a water quality index. Phosphorus is the leading stressor contributing to the poor water quality index rating.
  • Wetlands—A 2011 assessment found that 32% of the nation’s wetland area was in poor biological condition, with leading stressors including surface hardening (soil compaction) and vegetation removal.

Studies found that 18% of the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes waters and 32% of the nation’s wetland area were in poor biological condition.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment Report conveys the status of America’s rivers and streams, showing a patchwork of positive and negative outcomes and trends. The mixed condition of the nation’s waters is due to a combination of funding cuts for sewage treatment plants, population growth, expanded urban/suburban runoff, the expansion of large factory farms, and inconsistent enforcement.

Still, the Clean Water Act has resulted in significant progress in Michigan since 1972. A majority of inland lakes, the Great Lakes, and rivers meet water quality standards for swimming and other full-body recreation.

Still, the Clean Water Act has resulted in significant progress in Michigan since 1972. A majority of inland lakes, the Great Lakes, and rivers meet water quality standards for swimming and other full-body recreation.

Two significant limitations of the Clean Water Act are that it does not protect most groundwater (45% of Michigan’s population is served by drinking water from wells) and provisions that mostly exempt agriculture, a significant contributor to bacteriological and phosphorus pollutants to the nation’s waters. An exception to the latter loophole is a requirement that large livestock operations apply for Clean Water Act permits.

Two significant limitations of the Clean Water Act are that it does not protect most groundwater and provisions that mostly exempt agriculture.

There have been numerous amendments to the Act since 1972. Title I of the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990, for example, put into place parts of the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, where the two nations agreed to reduce certain toxic pollutants in the Great Lakes. That law required the EPA to establish water quality criteria for the Great Lakes addressing 29 toxic pollutants with maximum levels that are safe for humans, wildlife, and aquatic life.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) offers a short history of the Clean Water Act and events commemorating the anniversary of the law. EGLE’s 2022 water quality report is now available as well.

Strengthening the Clean Water Act should be on the agenda of Congress. To truly fulfill its promise, increased sewage treatment funding and more effective approaches to urban and farm runoff are critical.

Strengthening the Clean Water Act should be on the agenda of Congress. To truly fulfill its promise, increased sewage treatment funding and more effective approaches to urban and farm runoff are critical.

Will the Supreme Court Shrink the Clean Water Act?

The Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC.


Less than two weeks before the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday (click for audio or transcript) in a case that could gut the authority of the federal government to protect streams and wetlands.

The case—Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency—involves Idaho landowners who say the site on which they want to build a house is not protected by the Act and, thus, they do not need a permit authorizing construction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the land in question is connected to a protected wetland through groundwater. Wetlands are important to water quality because they filter pollutants and capture floodwaters.

At stake are millions of acres of wetlands and intermittent streams that are vital to clean water and under significant stress.

The difference is significant. At stake are millions of acres of wetlands and intermittent streams that are vital to clean water and under significant stress. According to a 2017 report to Congress by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a 2011 assessment found that 32% of the nation’s wetland area was in poor biological condition, with leading stressors including surface hardening (soil compaction) and vegetation removal.

The EPA’s 2011 assessment found that 32% of the nation’s wetland area was in poor biological condition.

Some observers have said it is likely the Sacketts would have received a Clean Water Act permit had they applied, but the landowners declined to do so, arguing that the permit requirement infringed on their private property rights.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling next year.

Legal experts have disagreed on the Court’s likely decision based on questions the justices asked of attorneys for the two sides. One report said a majority of the justices “appeared reluctant to wrest wetlands permitting power from EPA in a dispute that had been expected to significantly narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act.” Another report said the Court “appears determined to shrink the Clean Water Act.”

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling next year.

Liz Kirkwood Reflects on the Importance of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement After 50 Years

Friday, April 15, marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement–a deep and lasting commitment between the two nations to restore and protect the greatest collection of fresh surface water on the planet.

A key institution in the execution of the Agreement is the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, which advises the International Joint Commission. The Board assists the Commission by assessing the progress of the governments of Canada and the United States in implementing the Agreement. The Water Quality Board also identifies emerging issues, recommends strategies and approaches for preventing and resolving complex challenges facing the Great Lakes, and provides advice on the role of relevant jurisdictions. 

Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s executive director, is a U.S. appointee to the 28-member binational board. Here are her thoughts on the Board’s role under the Agreement in protecting the lakes. (You also can read our companion piece here: Evaluating the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement on its 50th Birthday).

How important is the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement  in Great Lakes protection?

Liz Kirkwood: “Very important. It serves as the architectural framework for the Canada and U.S. governments to protect and restore the Great Lakes.”

What role does the Great Lakes Water Quality Board (WQB) play in the Agreement?

Liz Kirkwood: “The WQB is the principal advisor to the IJC on Great Lakes water quality, according to the Agreement. The WQB marshals science-based evidence to advance a shared policy vision where human communities and natural ecosystems of the Great Lakes can thrive together.”

Public policy rooted in scientific understanding and informed by the social and cultural context matters tremendously. It translates our values into meaningful and long-term action to change our relationship with each other and the lakes.

“The threats to this global unique ecosystem loom large. They include pollution, algal blooms, invasive species, climate change impacts, water diversion, urbanization, habitat destruction, failing water infrastructure, transboundary pipelines, variable lake water levels, and much more. Sustaining and restoring the health of the waters is a precondition for the long-term health of our interdependent communities. We are all interconnected.” 

How do you see your role on the WQB?

Liz Kirkwood: “As a member of the WQB, I hope to bring a public trust perspective to holistically tend to and care for this complex ecosystem, as one that transcends artificial, man-made jurisdictional boundaries.

“Public policy rooted in scientific understanding and informed by the social and cultural context matters tremendously. It translates our values into meaningful and long-term action to change our relationship with each other and the lakes. Over the last 50 years, technological and scientific advancements have deepened our understanding about our interconnectedness with the natural world and underscored the need to collaboratively manage the Great Lakes using an ecosystem approach that prioritizes public health and social equity.”

What do you think the public needs to know about the Agreement?

Liz Kirkwood: “It is extraordinary to think that Canada, the U.S., and multiple Tribal, First Nations, and Metis sovereign nations share the globally unique responsibility of stewarding 20 percent of the planet’s fresh surface water.  The Agreement serves as an international expression and commitment to do so. As we look forward towards the next 50 years, we must recognize all peoples with a multilateral agreement for meaningful participation and inclusion.

“Canadians, Americans, and Indigenous peoples, particularly the 40 million people who depend on these waters in the Great Lakes region for drinking water, should call on their respective governments to fulfill the promise of this agreement and to serve as an example of how countries can and must work together to address water security and sustainability for future generations.”

Evaluating the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement on its 50th Birthday

When Lake Erie algae blooms worsened to a crisis in the 1960s, Canada and the United States shared the problem—but no mechanism to combat it jointly.

Out of that gap came the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Signed by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and U.S. President Richard Richard Nixon in Ottawa on April 15, 1972, the pact embraced the reality that Great Lakes water flows across the international boundary and that only through joint effort can the lakes be restored.

Has it worked?

The answer: yes and no. Yes, the Great Lakes are better off than they would be without the Agreement. The two countries have coordinated efforts to clean up the lakes for decades, keeping the commitment they made 50 years ago. That commitment is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Waters of the Great Lakes.” These efforts have reduced, but not eliminated, both conventional and chemical forms of pollution and broadened the perspectives of both governments and the public to grasp the importance of regarding the Lakes as an ecosystem, instead of a jumble of unrelated pieces.

But the Agreement’s 1972 goals are unfulfilled. In particular, the Great Lakes are not “free from nutrients entering the waters as a result of human activity in concentrations that create nuisance growths of aquatic weeds and algae.” After early successes in reducing the phosphorus pollution that spurred algae outbreaks, the two nations have witnessed a rebound in both nuisance and harmful algae in Lake Erie since the early 2000s. A toxic bloom forced Toledo, Ohio, officials to warn residents not to drink city water for two days in the summer of 2014. Algae blooms also occur in Saginaw Bay and pockets of Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario. Lately, blooms have appeared in Lake Superior, the coldest and cleanest of the Great Lakes, for reasons not yet clear.

Has it worked? The answer: yes and no. Yes, the Great Lakes are better off than they would be without the Agreement. But the Agreement’s 1972 goals are unfulfilled.

While the scientific explanation for the Lake Erie algae trend is complicated, the social and political explanation is simple. The primary culprit in the 1950s and 1960s, when a University of Toronto researcher said the lake was dying, was phosphorus soaps and detergents, discharged primarily from sewage plants after household use, and thus easy to attack. Today, runoff of farm fertilizer and animal waste is the primary cause, and there is little political appetite for enforcing strict phosphorus limits on agriculture. Similarly, politicians on both sides of the border are generally unwilling to spend political capital challenging industry to reduce the use and introduction of toxic chemicals that often contaminate sportfish. Pollution also limits other human uses in areas of the Great Lakes, including swimming.

This is just one of several problems undermining the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which has been significantly altered three times, in 1978, 1987 and 2012.

Report cards issued by the two governments and by the International Joint Commission (IJC), which the Agreement charges with evaluating progress, are mixed. The governments’ 2019 State of the Great Lakes report characterizes the lakes as “fair and unchanging. While progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes has occurred, including the reduction of toxic chemicals, the indicator assessments demonstrate that there are still significant challenges, including the impacts of nutrients and invasive species.”

The biggest threat to the Great Lakes is undoubtedly climate change. It will alter the lakes in many ways, some of them not foreseeable. Warming groundwater, changes in the aquatic food web, and increasing algae blooms are likely among them.

There are other major challenges to the health of the Great Lakes: habitat loss, pollution of groundwater that feeds the lakes, and climate change. Meanwhile, mistakes of the past continue to plague the lakes. After more than three decades of cleanup effort, 34 of an original 43 Areas of Concern (AOCs) remain (26 U.S., 12 Canadian and five shared). AOCs are bays, harbors, and rivers that are victims of chemical and conventional pollution requiring billions of taxpayer dollars to clean up. The toxic materials, such as PCBs, dioxins, and mercury are persistent and have contaminated millions of cubic yards of underwater sediments. An additional $1 billion for the Great Lakes appropriated by Congress this year will go to cleanup activities at several AOCs.

There is growing awareness that a binational U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement excludes governments that should have an equal seat at the table–tribes, First Nations, and Metis, whose sovereignty, wisdom, and scientific knowledge are essential to the health of the Great Lakes. Yet it was only in the 2012 version of the Agreement that indigenous membership was specified on the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, and only in 2019 that the first indigenous member of the IJC, Henry Lickers, was appointed by the Canadian government.

The biggest threat to the Great Lakes is undoubtedly climate change. It will alter the lakes in many ways, some of them not foreseeable. Warming groundwater, changes in the aquatic food web, and increasing algae blooms are likely among them. The 2012 version of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement contains an annex devoted to climate change, but focuses solely on assessment and planning.

In signing the Agreement in Ottawa in April 1972, President Nixon said, “This agreement represents an important beginning, one which has been made possible by the cooperation of our two national governments and of State and Provincial governments as well. And now we must all follow through on the beginning.

Today, we are still closer to the beginning than the end of Great Lakes restoration, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement notwithstanding.