Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

From Igniting the Environmental Movement to Restoring the Great Lakes

By Peter Cassell

On June 22, 1969, oil and debris in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. It wasn’t the first time this happened but it was an image that stuck with Americans, an image that helped us focus on threats to the environment. The formation of the Environmental Protection Agency the following year blazed a path for environmental legislation such as the Clean Water Act in 1972 and an environmental movement that is still going strong.

A few weeks ago, I helped represent EPA alongside the Canadian government, other federal agencies, non-profits, academic institutions, and businesses at Great Lakes Week 2012 in Cleveland. There were field trips, tours, and seminars about more than 700 projects going on around the basin to restore the Lakes, many funded by the President’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

Attendees also recognized the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. It helped me appreciate that waters I use today were once so polluted I wouldn’t have been able to use them then. I wouldn’t be able to squeeze in trips to the beach, kayak, or fish in my spare time if these areas weren’t cleaned up.

When I moved to Chicago two years ago I fell in love with the Great Lakes and became one of 30 million Americans around the basin who depends on the Lakes in my everyday life. Thankfully, after 40 years of the Clean Water Act, 40 years of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and three years of the GLRI, I can love the Great Lakes up close, not from afar.

Do you have a favorite memory from enjoying this beach season? Feel free to share it with me along with your thoughts on Great Lakes issues in the comment section.

To find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit www.glri.us or follow us on Twitter (@EPAGreatLakes) or Facebook.  You can also watch clips from Great Lakes Week 2012.

About the author: Peter Cassell is a Press Officer in EPA’s Chicago office who focuses on water issues, the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Coming Full Circle with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

By Cameron Davis

Twenty-six years ago, I volunteered under the direction of the legendary Great Lakes advocate Lee Botts, to organize a public meeting at the Chicago Cultural Center. We wanted citizens to comment on what the U.S. and Canadian governments should include as they re-negotiated the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a historic pact that commits the two countries to coordinate efforts to make these magnificent waterbodies healthier for everyone. The U.S. and Canada finalized the Agreement the next year, in 1987.

Today, I’m wrapping up my role as a lead negotiator on the U.S. negotiation team. On September 7, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and her Canadian counterpart, Environment Minister Peter Kent, will sign a new version the Agreement. Among other things, the 2012 Agreement will:

  • Emphasize prevention of future harm, which is good for the environment, public health and makes better fiscal sense.
  • Contain major new Annexes (issue-specific sections) dedicated to invasive species prevention, habitat and native species restoration, and preparing coastal communities for climate change.
  • Reaffirm or strengthen the 1987 version’s efforts to fix past environmental problems, such as in Areas of Concern, contaminants, and nutrients.
  • Include more opportunities for public input.

    People can watch the live signing on Friday, September 7th. It will be an incredible way to kick off Great Lakes Week that Monday in Cleveland, where the region’s top leaders and citizens will come together to discuss the theme “Taking Action, Delivering Results.”

    You can be part of all of this by Tweeting at me (@CameronDavisEPA) or interacting with us on Facebook.  See you there!

    About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    Great Input Keeps the Great Lakes Great

    By Cameron Davis

    I am happy to share that on May 30, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who chairs the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force of 16 federal agencies coordinating to restore the Great Lakes, announced the formation of a committee to help make Great Lakes recovery even more effective.

    Stakeholder commitment is the backbone of the very programs, like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and U.S.-Canadian Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which accelerate Great Lakes recovery. In announcing the new Great Lakes Advisory Board, Chair Jackson said, “it’s important that we hear from experts and stakeholders who can strengthen our efforts. By providing insight from those who know these waters best, the Great Lakes Advisory Board will ensure the continued success of the work already underway, and help move into the next phases of Great Lakes restoration and protection.”
    The Task Force, through EPA, will request nominations from leaders soon. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative  or by following me on Twitter @CameronDavisEPA.

    To view the Federal Register notice announcing EPA’s intent to establish the advisory board, see

    About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    The Only Things Certain in Life…

    By Cameron Davis

    Every year around April 15, we’re all bound to hear too many times the old saying that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Now we can add a third thing that’s certain about life…the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

    It was signed 40 years ago on April 15. So maybe this year April 15 should be known as “Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Day.”

    The U.S. and Canadian governments are wrapping up their inter-agency reviews and are pushing to finalize the Agreement this spring. The new version will be more prevention oriented; building from older versions of the pact that focused more on cleaning up past problems (the updated Agreement will retain commitments for remediation, too, especially for Areas of Concern). The next generation of the Agreement will be more streamlined and user-friendly. It’ll have stronger commitments to tackle nutrients that are choking aquatic life and local economies in Lake Erie and other “priority watersheds.” It’ll have new commitments on climate change impacts, call for a net gain in habitat and face down invasive species. The stronger focus on prevention will be especially important with pest species that undermine the ecology and economy of the Lakes.

    Check out footage of the original 1972 Agreement being signed (amidst Vietnam War protests outside), courtesy of colleague and Canadian negotiator, Mike Goffin of Environment Canada.

    So, come this April 15, let’s not think of it as Tax Day. Let’s think of it as Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Day.

    PS: And, it doesn’t hurt that this year, federal taxes are actually due Tuesday, April 17…

    To find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit , or follow me on Twitter (CameronDavisEPA).

    About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    The Big Year Is Coming To A Region Near You

    By Cameron Davis

    No, not the movie, or the best-selling book on which it’s based about one man’s pursuit of breaking the record for most birds seen in one year. Rather, 2012 is The Big Year for the Great Lakes region.

    The U.S. and Canada completed the last round of formal negotiations to revise the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in Ottawa on January 20th. The revised agreement will incorporate recommendations from the public to tackle new threats to the Great Lakes: invasive species, climate change impacts and habitat protection. Another benefit of the revitalized Agreement that probably won’t make headlines, but is as important as anything else:  it will be more user-friendly than previous versions. During the coming weeks the U.S. and Canada will be putting the finishing touches on language to revise the Agreement, which has long been considered a model of binational environmental cooperation. More details to come…

    Then there’s the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. President Obama’s FY13 budget is due for release on Monday, February 13. Stay tuned to hear about FY13 GLRI funding. Administrator Jackson will be announcing the EPA’s budget, including the multi-agency GLRI numbers, upon the White House’s budget release. Follow me on Twitter for an up-to-the-minute up-date.

    To find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit, or follow me on Twitter (CameronDavisEPA).

    About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.