The time is upon us. The US State Department and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs are putting the final touches on a revised Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Now is the last chance for you to make input into this rarely revised guide for binational protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ecosystem.
Great Lakes United intended to compare the detailed recommendations that we and other groups have submitted to the governments for a new Agreement with the negotiators’ proposed draft Agreement. Unfortunately, we have not been given a draft agreement to review or any materials that have enough substance to be sure of what the proposed agreement says or does not say. Therefore, we cannot do this comparison.
The information we were able to gather from a vague powerpoint posted for public consultation, the two public forums and the Webinar about the new Agreement have flagged concerns for us about the future of the Agreement.
A few of the major alarm bells that have been set off for us are:
· Timelines, benchmarks, chemical lists and targets, which would be the muscle of the Agreement, do not seem to be there; without them the Agreement will have little weight or value.
· The proposed binational structure (the Great Lakes Executive Committee) would do little, if anything, to build constituencies, promote participation, or foster transparency. Instead it just seems to be a supercommittee of agencies.
· The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem is truncated because most of the St. Lawrence River is left out of the Agreement.
· They are refusing to put in Green Chemistry and Green Engineering and Green Infrastructure as guiding principles in solving and avoiding problems. How can this be an Agreement for the 21st Century without these guiding principles?
· The first actions in the new Agreement all seem likely to be lengthy planning exercises. After almost 40 years of working together in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence ecosystem, we know enough to act now. We cannot afford more delays on actions for already identified objectives At the same time, we will need detailed plans for new challenges; the public role in developing these new strategies is unclear.
Your last chance to submit comments to the negotiators is by the end of the day this coming Tuesday, September 20. Your comments should be e-mailed to BOTH firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
For more information on the Agreement and for the views of the citizens’ groups that we have been working with, go to http://www.glu.org/en/action/speak-out-now-set-us-canada-strategy-protecting-our-great-lakes and elsewhere on the Great Lakes United website.