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ARCHIVED - Government Response to Proposed COA

V - Lake and Basin Sustainability Annex

Sustainability: A comment was made regarding acknowledging population pressures in the Great Lakes Basin. Another commenter requested that COA be formally aligned with legislation extending from the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement.

Response: The development and implementation of lakewide programs provides a mechanism for evaluating and addressing the combined effects of pressures resulting from a wide range of causes, including urbanization and population growth pressures.

Canada will continue to work with the Province of Ontario to ensure that management of the Great Lakes is consistent with the application of federal and provincial laws.

Lake St. Clair: A comment was received asking whether there will be a management plan developed for Lake St. Clair.

Response: Lake St. Clair is part of the Lake Erie basin and is managed through the Lakewide Management Plan for Lake Erie. A management plan for Lake St. Clair is well underway and should be finalized in 2008.

Aquatic Invasive Species: Comments were received asking for more detail on what the plan is to address aquatic invasive species. Comments were received asking for further action on aquatic invasive species through initiatives such as no ballast on board regulations and harmonizing ballast water standards with the United States.

Response: Under COA, Canada and Ontario will work together to implement the National Action Plan to Address Aquatic Invasive Species in the Great Lakes region.

Canada's Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations contain procedures that address ships that have no ballast on board. Canada and the United States continue to work cooperatively in the harmonization of ballast water control standards.

Climate Change: Comments were received asking for a description of concrete actions that have been identified in regard to climate change and recommending a focus on issues related to the impact of climate change on the Great Lakes including an emphasis on adaptation, mitigation and understanding.

Response: The Government of Canada agrees that climate change is a global issue of major concern. The impacts of climate change are apparent not only in the Great Lakes Basin and Ontario, but in the rest of Canada and around the world, and action is needed to identify changes taking place to both climate and ecosystems in the Basin and to assess the impacts.

The Agreement explicitly includes climate change as one of the shared Canada-Ontario priorities for the Great Lakes Basin over the next three years. Inclusion of this important priority will help coordinate federal-provincial activities related to the impacts of climate change in the Basin. To support the vision of lake and basin sustainability expressed in Annex 3, the focus is to identify climate related changes that may be occurring in the Great Lakes basin, those parts of the ecosystem that may be vulnerable to climate change, and to determine the potential impacts. Concrete actions in support of these specific commitments will be developed as part of detailed multi-year workplans that ensure coordinated actions in response to COA commitments.

The recently announced Clean Air Regulatory Agenda is the cornerstone of the Government of Canada's national efforts to address reductions in greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions.

Source Protection: A commenter asked for clarification between efforts to be undertaken under Ontario's Clean Water Act, 2006 and COA's source protection goal. A comment suggested that the lakes themselves need to be protected as a source of acceptable drinking water and to do this we need to know how vulnerable they may be. Another comment received recommended the Government of Canada engage First Nations in meaningful consultation on Source Water Protection.

Response: Canada will provide access to the relevant science available to help build a better understanding of the source water issues and concerns in the Great Lakes. This is reflected in the COA goal (Annex 3, Goal 6) on source protection that links to the work being undertaken to support efforts under the Ontario Clean Water Act, 2006.

COA recognizes that the Great Lakes are a source of drinking water for over eight million residents of Ontario. It is also recognized that additional effort and cooperation are warranted to ensure that growing populations can continue to rely on Great Lakes water for generations to come.

Budget 2007 proposed a new National Water Strategy, which would include a regulatory regime and new standards to ensure that all First Nations residents have access to safe drinking water.

National Water Policy: A commenter asked for a National Water Policy.

Response: Budget 2007 proposes a new National Water Strategy, which includes for example: $12 million over two years to support the clean-up of Lake Simcoe; $11 million over two years to accelerate the clean-up of the Great Lakes; and $39 million for fisheries science research programs to strengthen management and conservation.

Watershed Planning: A number of comments recommended a stronger reference to the importance of watershed planning and management, and for linkages to be made between these plans and others such as lakewide programs.

Response: Watershed planning and management that incorporates relevant Great Lakes objectives in addition to watershed objectives is essential to achieve improvements to aquatic ecosystem health in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Through Annex 3, efforts will be taken to strengthen linkages between watershed and lake based initiatives at the different scales, basin-wide, lake-wide and watershed to ensure Great Lakes objectives are met.

Inter-basin transfers: One commenter suggested that COA should have a focus on preventing further inter-basin transfer of water in order to sustain the integrity of the watersheds.

Response: The federal government amended the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in 2002 to prohibit bulk out-of-basin transfers from Canadian boundary waters, including the Great Lakes. This legislation is aimed at preserving the integrity of ecosystems and communities within water basins that depend on a sustainable supply of water.

COA also commits to foster sustainable water use and conservation consistent with the intent of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (Annex 3, Result 1).

A Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) for Lake Huron: One commenter noted that Lake Huron does not have a LaMP.

Response: In 2002, the Binational Executive Committee formally endorsed the formation of a Lake Huron Binational Partnership to coordinate environmental activities in the Lake Huron basin. Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in conjunction with the Unites States' Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality form the core by providing leadership and coordination.

Through the Lake Huron Binational Partnership, ecosystem priorities have been identified and include contaminants in fish and wildlife, loss of habitat and biodiversity as well as local water quality issues. The Lake Huron Binational Partnership Action Plan was developed in 2004 and updated in 2006. The successes of the Lake Huron program include: increased coordination of government and non-government organizations, communication, community involvement, stewardship, enhanced monitoring and state of the lake basin reporting.

Canada believes that this approach, which incorporates many of the elements of a Lakewide Management Plan is the most effective means of addressing the challenges in Lake Huron at this time.

Importance of public education: One commenter suggested that COA should have a focus on educating the public about the environmental impacts of their actions and the importance of protecting our shared water resources through pollution prevention programs.

Response: Annex 3 highlights the importance of increased awareness and appreciation of the Great Lakes to inform decision-making though stewardship action and beneficial management practices.

Changing practices in the Agricultural Sector: One commenter noted that agriculture cannot be held responsible for changing practices that do not benefit their production for the sole purpose of providing or improving the common good. The recognition of payment for the provision of ecological goods and services for the public benefit should be considered as a critical tool for the implementation of the COA.

Response: The Agreement acknowledges the positive contributions made by the agricultural sector and the challenges posed by changing agricultural practices in response to public demands and needs. Payment for the provision of ecological goods and services is not addressed through COA. A federal/provincial agricultural working group is currently exploring and examining ecological goods and services through pilot research initiative programs.

Enforcement of the Fisheries Act: A commenter recommended the inclusion of references to the enforcement of the Fisheries Act in COA.

Response: The government of Canada enforces its legislation.

Public Research of the Beneficial Aspects of Agriculture: One commenter identified that further public research should be initiated to investigate the beneficial aspects of agriculture on the Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems and habitats.

Response: COA recognizes the positive contributions to the Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems and habitats from the stewardship activities of agricultural producers. The federal government supports collaborative research on agricultural management practices that are sustainable and will safeguard our land, water and air, including investigating benefits to the environment. Land and water management practices are being developed to enhance both crop productivity and improve environmental quality in the Great Lakes Basin.

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