Public feedback is sought for a new draft Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health released by the provincial and federal governments earlier this month.
The deal coordinates actions to protect water quality and ecosystem health and addresses key challenges such as improving wastewater and stormwater management and reducing pollution, including a new focus on road salt and plastic pollution.
The draft agreement – which was posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) as Notice (019-0198) on July 5 – focuses on ongoing and emerging issues such as algae blooms, invasive species, and climate resilience.
According to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, commitments in the draft new Canada-Ontario Agreement would:
• support the implementation of Great Lakes-related commitments in the Province’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan (draft released November 2018)
• advance the purposes of the Province’s Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015
• align with the goals of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy (2012, currently under review)
• support Canada’s commitments under the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
• respond to priorities raised by many Great Lakes partners in recent discussions with federal and provincial agencies
Stakeholders liked what they saw
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) hasn’t had time to review the draft now up for public consultation, but will do so over the next two months and submit its comments by the Sept. 4 deadline.
The OFAH and other Great Lakes stakeholders, however, had the opportunity to comment on a preliminary draft of the priorities and actions of this renewal of the COA this spring, OFAH Fish and Wildlife Conservation Programs Manager Chris Robinson said.
They supported what they saw and had comments and questions of clarification at the time, and will look to see if they have been addressed in the draft document, he said.
“The OFAH has always supported a strong, well-funded, and well-integrated COA program. It benefits OFAH programs such as Atlantic salmon restoration and invading species awareness, as well as Great Lakes fisheries in general,” he said.
Assuming there is sufficient funding to address the actions called for, the renewal will address important nutrient issues in lakes Erie and Ontario, aquatic invasive species, habitat restoration and hopefully remaining areas of concern, Robinson added.
Binationally, Great Lakes’ fisheries are worth more than $7 billion, he pointed out.
“Along with open water fisheries for warm- to cool- to coldwater species, healthy Great Lakes also provide fantastic tributary (river) fishing opportunities,” Robinson added.
The draft agreement contains 13 annexes under five categories, including Protecting Waters, Improving Coastal Areas, Protecting Habitat and Species, Enhancing Understanding and Adaptation, Engaging Communities – From Awareness to Action and Science and Innovation.
OFAH staff have been members on Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) subcommittees to three annexes since 2013.
The renewed deal would be the ninth between the two levels of government, which signed the first COA in 1971.