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               great lakes
              RENEGOTIATION OF

                                                                                                  by Ralph Pentland

  O                          n June 13, 2009, U.S.
                             Secretary of State
                             Hillary Clinton and
                             Canadian Foreign
              Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon
              met in Niagara Falls, Canada, and
              announced plans to amend the
              landmark 37-year-old Canada-U.S.
              Great Lakes Water Quality Agree-
                                                       phosphate-detergent bans have
                                                       been as successful as similar-scale
                                                       efforts elsewhere in the world.
                                                           But today, the capacity of govern-
                                                       ments to enforce regulations that
                                                       meet the current challenges— and
                                                       their appetite to do so—is on the
                                                       decline. In both countries, there
                                                       is rising doubt about governments’
                                                                                                and personal-care products, some
                                                                                                of which may pose a risk to fish,
                                                                                                wildlife and people. Non-native
                                                                                                species are threatening to offset the
                                                                                                balance in biological systems and
                                                                                                water chemistry. Climate change
                                                                                                is contributing new challenges to
                                                                                                the sustainability and health of the
                                                                                                water basin.
              ment to modernize it to meet new         willingness and ability to fulfi ll          The impact has already been
              challenges.                              their promises.                          tragic. The upheaval in biologi-
                 Residents in both countries wel-          And with reason: progress on         cal systems and water chemistry
              comed the news—but with consid-          newer commitments set forth in a         caused by an onslaught of inva-
              erably less enthusiasm than when         1987 protocol has been slow, with        sive species has created a “biologi-
              they greeted the signing of the          only three areas removed from the        cal desert”—an expanse of water
              first agreement by then-President         list of “hot spots” over two decades.    that has become uninhabitable for
              Richard Nixon and Prime Minister         The protocol called in fact for re-      many native species—across por-
              Pierre Trudeau.                          medial action plans for 43 areas         tions of southern Lake Michigan.
                 Why the decline in confidence?         of concern (designated because              Lake Erie has seen a series of bot-
              Blame it, in part, on success. The       they contained contaminated              ulism outbreaks in fish and birds.
              promises in the 1972 agreement           sediments, inadequately treated          Many local areas around the lakes
              and subsequent amendments in             wastewater, non-point source pol-        are once again witnessing exten-
              1978 were largely met. Concentra-    
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