LakeErieFuturesBlog Ten: Local Needs Can Be Included In the Evolving, Bi-National Level Great Lakes Process (First Quarter: Jan., Feb. and March 2016) By Terry H. Martin, Ph.D., and Guest Co-Author Shannon Dougherty, NYSDEC’s GL Watershed Coordinator

Everyone agrees that recent toxic algae and other problems in Lake Erie need to be eliminated in order to protect the health and quality of life for millions of people in the Great Lakes Basin.

 

A Renewed, Two Nation, Process Continues to Evolve

Fortunately, a renewed and more focused process to clean up the Great Lakes has been created under the updated, bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S. (GLWQA 2012).  Under this Agreement, existing comprehensive and science-based Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs) will be updated for each of the five Great Lakes.  In the U.S., these efforts are being made possible through the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

This renewed, binational management framework is being implemented through a newly created Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC), which has been described in some detail in previous LakeErieFuturesBlog articles.  The purpose of GLEC is “to help coordinate and implement the programs and other measures undertaken to achieve the purpose of the GLWQA 2012.”  It meets twice a year, once in the U.S, and once in Canada.

The GLWQA 2016 also created the following ten special Annexes to implement this complex task around the five Great Lakes:

1. Areas of Concern
2. Lakewide Management
3. Chemicals of Mutual Concern
4. Nutrients
5. Discharges from Vessels
6. Aquatic Invasive Species
7. Habitat and Species
8. Groundwater
9. Climate Change Impacts
10. Science

Binational management committees and work groups are being established for each Annex to update the LAMPs for each of the five Great Lakes, including the Lake Erie LAMP.  The Agreement also presents extensive public Outreach and Engagement (O&E) objectives.  Overall, this is a complex but necessary task in order to clean up the Great Lakes.  It will take many years to accomplish.

In addition to these direct management functions, the GLWQA 2012 also created a new Great Lakes Public Forum to meet once every three years under the sponsorship of the International Joint Commission (IJC).  The purpose of these meetings is to include a wide range of stakeholder participants, and “to discuss and receive public comments on the state of the lakes and binational priorities for science and action…, “as well as informing the IJC as it evaluates progress in Great Lakes management.

For an excellent source of additional information on the GLWQA 2012, GLEC and its Ten Annexes, and the new Great Lakes Public Forum, go to the following website: binational.net(link is external), which also has a wealth of information on Great Lakes facts, events and issues. 

A major challenge, however, is how to incorporate local needs and state priorities into this newly emerging, two nation, management system that will be updating LAMPs for each lake.

 

New York State Is Meeting the Challenge

New York State is meeting this challenge for Lake Erie by integrating local, regional and state concerns and solutions into what is called New York’s Interim Great Lakes Action Agenda (GLAA), which was released for public review in 2014.  It aims to advance NYS water quality, natural resource and community development priorities, in support of both the GLWQA 2012 and the U.S.Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  New York’s new GLAA is also consistent with the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act of 2006.

New York’s GLAA seeks to integrate and focus local, state, federal and binational plans for New York’s Great Lakes region using ecosystem-based management (EBM), a watershed holistic approach to environmental management.  GLAA considers how people depend on, and can help sustain our shared resources for future generations.

The GLAA is organized into the following ten goals, representing the key focus areas and shared priorities that have been identified by our NYS stakeholders and state, federal and binational partners:

Goal 1: Virtually Eliminate Discharges of Persistent Toxic Substances 

Goal 2: Control Sediment, Nutrient and Pathogen Loadings 

Goal 3:  Accelerate the Delisting of New York’s Areas of Concern 

Goal 4: Combat Invasive Species 

Goal 5: Conserve and Restore Native Fish and Wildlife Biodiversity and Habitats 

Goal 6: Conserve Great Lakes Water Supplies 

Goal 7: Enhance Community Resiliency and Ecosystem Integrity 

Goal 8:  Promote Smart Growth, Redevelopment and Adaptive Reuse 

Goal 9: Enhance Recreation and Tourism Opportunities 

Goal 10: Plan for Energy Development

The GLAA also includes cross-cutting priorities in support of building diverse partnerships and coordinated action among stakeholders, enhancing science-based decision making, monitoring and information management, supporting environmental education and outreach initiatives, and advancing climate change and mitigation efforts.

New York State is making steady progress in advancing these goals.  Ecosystem-based management principles and a participatory coordination approach have been developed to engage diverse stakeholders (such as the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance that is described in this blog’s Article Nine) from throughout the state’s Great Lakes basin in GLAA action planning and implementation.  Four stakeholder work groups have been established in each of the major sub-basins (see map) to identify key needs and advance regional project priorities in support of the GLAA.


Sub-basin work plans and project teams are being developed in each of the four sub-basins to advance key projects.  The work groups provide an opportunity for local stakeholders to better organize, coordinate and collaborate on addressing local priorities so that New York State can better direct and utilize existing resources and expertise, while leveraging additional state and federal resources – ultimately to achieve more projects and progress in advancing implementation of the GLAA!

Since early 2015, a total of 16 work group meetings have been convened throughout New York’s portion of the Great Lakes Basin.  These meetings are involving diverse stakeholders, including state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, academic institutions, local government and other diverse interests.

Focus meetings with agency partners from NYS Departments of State, Ag & Markets, Health, Transportation, State Parks and others have also been convened to advance EBM at the state level and to support the activities of the work groups. 

 

Specific Actions Have Been Identified

The following actions illustrate specific challenges that are being considered by the GLAA Lake Erie Work Group and will be prioritized and further refined at the next meeting in early March, 2016. 

1. Regional Water Quality Monitoring and Data Coordination -- The need to make multiple data sets available to a variety of users was identified, and a project team is being formed to scope out the development of a regional data clearinghouse to support this effort.

2. Developing EPA Nine-Element watershed management plans for high priority sub-watersheds in New York’s Lake Erie basin, with the goals of reducing non-point source pollutants like pathogens and nutrients to achieve reductions in beach closures and harmful algal blooms, while maintaining healthy fisheries. 

3. Enhancing habitat and (aquatic and terrestrial) connectivity for fish, birds and other wildlife through habitat protection, riparian restoration, and culvert and road crossing enhancement projects. 

4. Enhancing the sustainability of invasive species control projects by pursuing more landscape scale projects and implementing post project monitoring and adaptive management to apply lessons learned and improve outcomes.

Through effective, regionally-based collaboration, the work group process ensures that local projects are consistent with state, federal and binational priorities, while also providing a mechanism to inform state and federal partners of local challenges, needs, and opportunities.

The next work group meetings are scheduled for early March.  More information on these meetings, the Great Lakes Action Agenda and other updates can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/91881.html

 

Conclusion 

This Great Lakes situation covers vast geological areas and reflects complicated histories in two different nations.  The renewed Great Lakes Agreement of 2016 and GLEC and its ten Annexes shows how a two-way process can be accomplished, from top to bottom and from bottom to top.

The New York State Action Agenda (GLAA) is providing consistent, scientifically sound and participatory inputs into this bi-national process for updating the Lake Erie LAMP.  And the GLAA incorporates local, regional and state concerns and issues.

The example presented in this article #10 on New York’s GLAA provides one model of how local, regional and state priorities can be addressed within the Lake Erie LAMP Partnership (Annex 2) and within the updated bi-national management framework.  This is an important contribution.  In a recent Webinar, GLEC’s Co-Chairs for LAMPs in the Great Lakes Basin (Annex 2) acknowledged that more work was needed on how to include lower levels in this emerging, extended, and complicated binational management system. In other words, local, regional, and state needs can be incorporated into this new, two nation management system that is being developed for cleaning up the Great Lakes Basin.

 

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NOTE 1:  Links have been provided within this article so readers can get direct access to additional information on specific topics, organizations, and referenced reports.

NOTE 2:  Many people have contributed to this article #10, either directly or indirectly.  We are fortunate to have such knowledgeable people and agencies and programs that are active in Great Lakes clean-up efforts.  First, for this article #10, credit should be given to the Lake Erie LAMP Binational Public Forum for having stayed the course over the past twenty years assisting in the creation of the original Lake Erie Lamp (1996-2009), and in directly creating this lakeerieforum.org website which made this LakeErieFuturesBlog possible.  Second, thanks go to the forum’s binational facilitators Adam Rissien (U.S.) and Teresa Hollingsworth (Canada), who have bravely kept forum meetings and business going forward in the face of much uncertainty.  Third, a very special thank you goes to the Co-Author of this article #10, Shannon Dougherty.  Shannon Dougherty is the Western Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with responsibility for leading implementation of New York State’s GLAA, advancing ecosystem-based management initiatives, and coordinating stakeholder efforts throughout the state’s western Great Lakes basin.  Shannon holds a dual M.A. in Natural Resources/Sustainable Development and International Affairs from American University and a B.A. in Geography from SUNY Geneseo.

NOTE 3:  The 1st blog article introduces the blog’s author and purpose, which is to orient people who are new to Great lakes issues.  The 2nd blog article presents a “social system within the ecosystem” approach so we can more easily visualize the full complexity this huge ecosystem.  The 3rd blog article looks at the condition of hypoxia (“dead zone”) in Lake Erie and describes many new, binational organizations and procedures that have been created for solving related problems.  The 4th blog article presents a sampling of what’s being done around Lake Erie, including the situation in the Maumee River watershed in Ohio, the Province of Ontario, and with the new Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC) and its ten annexes.  The 5th blog article presents an overview of how the water column flows from Lake Superior all the way through the Great Lakes Basin into the St. Lawrence River and then into the Atlantic Ocean.  The 6th blog article looks at the intermixing of pollutants throughout this flowing water column and discusses potentially emerging cumulative effects problems that could eventually overwhelm existing program capabilities.  The 7th blog article identifies a need to raise awareness about the binational Lake Erie LAMP and related issues among professional planners, architects, and engineers at local and regional levels in both Ontario, Canada, and in the U.S (Future articles will describe efforts being made to protect Lake Erie at local and regional levels in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan).  The 8th blog article describes how different environmental emergencies can become deadly serious.  It mentions toxic algae and nuclear waste disposal as areas of recent concern, and presents a detailed eyewitness account of one emergency from 1977 that was created by the climate in Buffalo.  It concludes with a call to take all environmental issues seriously by improving institutional capabilities to prevent or seriously mitigate emerging problems.  We can accept “phasing in” strategies, but please, no more half measures.  The 9th blog article describes a major local and regional effort in western New York to clean up Lake Erie and its watersheds.  It is called the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance (LEWPA), and serves as a successful example of how a local, municipal, and regional initiative can help bring to fruition the O&E requirements of GLEC and its ten binational Annexes.  That is why the title of this article #9 is called, “Binational Priorities Need Local Support and Local Priorities Need Binational Support.  This 10th article describes how New York State is successfully incorporating local, regional and state needs and priorities into this newly emerging, bi-national, management system for the Great Lakes Basin.

NOTE 4:  Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors. 

Co-Authors Terry H. Martin, Ph.D, and Shannon Dougherty, Watershed  Coordinator, NYSDEC (both co-authors have updated profiles on LinkedIn). 

February 15, 2016