McGuinty Government to Protect Great Lakes

Archived Release

McGuinty Government to Protect Great Lakes

Seeks Public's Input To Ensure Draft Agreements Succeed TORONTO, July 19 - The Ontario government is seeking public comment on draft agreements negotiated with Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states to protect and conserve Great Lakes Basin waters, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced today. "Our government recognizes the need to protect Great Lakes Basin waters," said Ramsay. "With these agreements, we are ensuring that future generations will enjoy the Great Lakes." The draft agreements would implement commitments made in the 2001 Great Lakes Charter Annex to help protect, conserve and restore the Great Lakes Basin for future generations. These include establishing a minimum environmental standard for regulating water uses across the basin. Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states have all committed to strengthening the regulation of water uses, collaborating on reviews of major water uses and on diversions (where water is transferred from the Great Lakes Basin into another watershed, or from the watershed of one of the Great Lakes into that of another) and requiring water users to practise conservation and treat and return water after its use. "The views of our citizens are vital to ensuring the final agreements meet the needs of Ontarians," said Ramsay. "We will continue our dialogue with the other jurisdictions, while seeking public input on how to address potential changes to historical water diversions in the Great Lakes system." "With the public's input, we will protect our environment and strengthen our communities, providing Ontarians with a quality of life that is second to none," said Ramsay. Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- McGUINTY GOVERNMENT PROTECTS GREAT LAKES Ontario's Position Ontario is committed to strong protection for watersheds and the conservation of water. It has prohibited water transfers out of the province's three major water basins and recently proposed tough new rules for water takings in Ontario. Through Ontario's leadership and collaborative discussions, the eight Great Lake states, Quebec and Ontario have made important commitments. The draft agreements propose that the provinces and states strengthen the regulation of water uses by all jurisdictions, collaborate on state-provincial reviews of major water uses and diversions, and require water users to practise conservation and treat and return water to the basin after use. These combined commitments will increase the protection, conservation, restoration and improvement of Great Lakes Basin waters for future generations. The province supports the general intent of the draft agreements and recognizes the importance of regional cooperation in conserving and protecting Great Lakes Basin waters. The province believes further dialogue with the other parties is needed to help resolve outstanding issues. These include how the agreements will deal with any future proposals to change major historical diversions like the Chicago Diversion, as well as other issues that may arise during the public consultation. Great Lakes Charter The Great Lakes Charter is a good-faith agreement signed in 1985 by the premiers of Ontario and Quebec and the governors of the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). The charter aims to protect and conserve the waters of the Great Lakes Basin.(1) It was developed in response to shared concerns about threats to Great Lakes waters from proposals to divert large quantities of water out of the basin, and is intended to help avoid future conflicts and shortages. Through the charter, the provinces and Great Lakes states have consulted with each other on proposals for major diversions or consumptive water uses. They have also shared information on water use. Great Lakes Charter Annex Renewed concerns about proposals to export water in bulk led to the development of a supplementary agreement to the Great Lakes Charter known as the Great Lakes Charter Annex. Signed in 2001 by the same 10 parties (two provinces and eight states), the annex reinforced the principles of the Great Lakes Charter. The parties committed themselves to working out more binding protections within three years, including the development of an environmental standard on which to base decisions on water use. Draft Great Lakes Charter Annex Implementing Agreements The two draft agreements released today are intended to implement the Great Lakes Charter Annex. One, called the Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, involves all 10 parties. It is a good-faith agreement which each province and state will seek to implement by developing or modifying appropriate laws and regulations for their jurisdiction. The other, known as the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact, is a binding agreement among the eight Great Lakes states. Once they are signed, the agreements will set out the minimum environmental standard for provinces and states to manage and regulate proposed water uses. The standard will also be used to guide the review of regionally significant proposals by all 10 jurisdictions. The draft standard is based on the following proposed criteria: - No reasonable alternative to the proposed use, such as conserving existing water supplies; - Withdrawal limited to reasonable quantities for intended purposes; - All water withdrawn returned to the same Great Lake watershed, less an allowance for consumptive use; - No significant adverse individual or cumulative impacts; - Conservation plan (for major proposals) or measures; - Proposals for measures to improve the physical and biological integrity of the basin (for major proposals); and - Compliance with applicable laws and agreements (for example, Ontario's Water Taking and Transfer Regulation, and the federal International Boundary Waters Treaty Act). The draft agreements also propose to set up a regional body that would review major proposals for water use against the minimum environmental standard, and would monitor the implementation of the agreement. The proposed process to be used by the regional body for reviewing major proposals for water use includes guidelines for: - public participation; - notification of First Nations and Tribes in the Great Lakes Basin; - technical evaluation of proposals using the environmental standard; - consensus-building and dispute resolution among the 10 jurisdictions; and - the issuance of public statements regarding whether proposals meet the standard. Through the draft agreements, the parties also commit to develop programs to encourage water conservation and a system to enhance the gathering and sharing of scientific information. Public Consultation on Draft Agreements The two draft implementing agreements are being released on July 19 in all 10 jurisdictions for a 90-day public consultation. Comments received from the public will be considered in negotiating the final agreements. Once the premiers and governors sign the final implementing agreements, each province and state will seek to implement them by developing or modifying appropriate laws and regulations for their jurisdiction. The states will pass the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact into law. Through the consultation, Ontario is seeking the views of the public, stakeholders, First Nations and others to help it successfully negotiate the final agreements. Comments can be shared with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Council of Great Lakes Governors. The draft agreements are posted for 90 days on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry for public comment at www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/env_reg/ebr/english/index.htm. Enter Registry Number PB04E6018. Ontario will hold several public meetings across the province at locations and times to be announced. The Council of Great Lakes Governors will hold a public meeting in Toronto on September 20. People who wish to comment on the draft agreements should contact the Council of Great Lakes Governors directly by e-mail at Annex2001@cglg.org (electronic comments will be posted to the Council of Great Lakes Governors website at http://www.cglg.org), by fax at (312) 407-0038, or by mail at: David Naftzger Executive Director Council of Great Lakes Governors 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1850 Chicago, Illinois 60601 U.S.A. Comments should also be sent to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources by fax at (705) 755-1267, or by mail at: Annex Implementing Agreements Water Resources Section Ministry of Natural Resources 5th Floor, Robinson Place, South Tower 300 Water Street, P.O. Box 7000 Peterborough, ON K9J 8M5 Materials on the draft agreements may be viewed at: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/EBR/gl_charter/index.html. ------------------------------ (1) The Great Lakes Basin is the watershed of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River upstream from Trois-Rivières, Quebec. The basin includes the geographic areas surrounding each body of water in which water drains toward the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence River. Disponible en français www.mnr.gov.on.caFor further information: Ginette Albert, Minister's Office, (416) 314-2212, (647) 227-5747 (Cell); Steve Payne, Ministry of Natural Resources, (416) 314-2103