Posted by on December 25, 2016


Great Lakes Governance and its Contribution to the Great Lakes Ecosystem

Great Lakes refer to the collection of the fresh water lakes consisting of the five Great Lakes (Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario) and other numerous minor lakes and rivers (Kettl D.F, 2002). In Africa, Great Lakes refer to a series of lakes located on the floor of the Great East African Rift Valley and they include Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika, Malawi, Albert, Kivu and Edward. The five Great Lakes are located on the Canada-United States border in the northeastern side of the North America. As such, Great Lakes Governance refers to system of governance that deals with the legislations and the management of the Great Lakes resources. This paper seeks to discuss the various aspects of the Great Lakes governance and how this has contributed towards the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Even though many benefits have been derived from the Great Lakes including commercial exploitation of the resources such as fish, minerals and logs, the vulnerability of these lakes to toxic contamination and other stresses has necessitated the development of the Great Lakes governance. According to Rothwell, D. and VanderZwaag D.L (2006), the Great Lakes governance has evolved from the aspects of national sovereignty to the present scientific-based management principles. Lately, the Great Lakes governance is adopting the ecosystem-based approach to water resources management. However, the adoption of various aspects of the Great Lakes governance has greatly affected the preservation and the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem. (Marcia Valiante, 2007).
To begin with, the connecting channels of the five Great Lakes are a big challenge to the management and environmental institutions. This is due to the facts that these channels (the rivers and the straits) have brought up many aspects together including the people and the pollutants thereby resulting to enormous degradation of these channels. A need has therefore been aroused to forge a strong cooperation among the nations and also to protect these channels from further degradation. Nonetheless, even with the legislation being put in place, binational cooperation has not been achieved and the ecosystem perspective is yet to be adopted (Marcia Valiante, 2007).
According to Laurent Grands (n.d), lack of national cooperation has proved to be the major impediment towards the realization of a healthy and dignified Great Lakes ecosystem.
After many years of consultations and attempts to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem, the first international agreement to adopt the ecosystem approach to water management was finally signed in the year 1972. This agreement was popularly known as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). Due to its comprehensiveness, this agreement has been widely used as the basis for the formulation of other international and local environmental legislations (Marcia Valiante, 2007). The GLWQA called for joint efforts to restore water quality by checking the phosphorous levels and other forms of pollution. As a result, each country was then supposed to develop programs to foresee the control of sewage and industrial wastes. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was however too narrow in its water quality objective approach and there was a need to expand the scope to encompass the problem of the Great Lakes toxic contaminations. Consequently, a new approach was adopted and it was named ???an ecosystem approach to problem identification and management??™. (Marcia Valiante, 2007)
According to Bosselmann (2008), there were experienced some periods of vigorous activities in the Great Lakes governance following the signing of the revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1978. The implementation of this agreement was however impaired by the emergence of new atmospheric contaminants that affected the Great Lakes ecosystem. This prompted the amendment of the 1978 protocol in 1987. More controversies surrounded the Great Lakes institutions in the early 1990s. The exposure to harmful pollutants in the Great Lakes ecosystem affected the wildlife health posing a greater policy challenge to the Great Lakes institutions. This made the activities in the Great Lakes governance to decline. In addition to this, the ideological changes both in the United States and in Canada, misunderstanding of the ecosystem approach and the downsizing of the government from environmental programs also led to the decline in the activities in the Great Lakes governance (Caldwell L. K. 1988).
The GLWQA was then amended in 1987. This made the two concerned countries, Canada and the United States, to examine the governance aspect of the GLWQA. According to Valiante M, (2007), the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement focused on six aspects namely;
??? Participation in Binational Management Process
??? Principles, Governing concepts, and Tools Applicable to Implementing the GLWQA
??? Review of the GLWQA
??? Areas of concern
??? Lakewide Management plans
??? Addressing the Nearshore Zone
Participation in Binomial Management Process
This aspect implies that every party must participate in the consultation and review of the agreement twice a year. This participation was targeted towards harmonizing the work plans of the parties and to coordinate the implementation of the Agreement. The parties therefore formed the Binational Executive Committee that was held accountable for the delivery of major activities that are captured in the GLWQA terms. The binational committee includes representatives from the Canada and United States, provincial agencies, municipalities, tribes, Fist Nation and the Metis. (Valiante M, 2007)

Principles, Governing Concepts and Tools Applicable to Implementing the GLWQA
These include accountability, binational cooperation, collaboration, cooperation and engagement, cumulative impacts, Ecosystem approach, pollution prevention, prevention (protection from degradation), restoration, science-based management sustainability and transparency (Marcia Valiante, 2007). These concepts are as discussed below,
a) Accountability
This means that the states (Canada and United States) will clearly establish the goals and the results for this agreement and update the citizens on how the environmental conditions are protected under the agreement. This would make the state accountable to the citizens.
b) Transparency
The agreement requires that all the participants and the general public be supplied with the any relevant information and the decisions arrived at during the discussions.
c) Sustainability
GLWQA requires that the future generation is not endangered by the consideration of present generation??™s needs and as such, the Committee was supposed to ensure that all the factors were carefully considered.
d) Cumulative impacts
This aspect implies that individual and combinational efforts should be encouraged so as to achieve the desired water quality and a healthy aquatic ecosystem.
e) Adaptive management
The GLWQA aspect of adaptive management means that by monitoring the results of former management decisions, management policies can be progressively improved.

f) Binational cooperation.
This aspect ensures the member countries have equal chances of participation and they can freely exchange ideas and facts.
e) Collaboration, cooperation and engagement.
This aspect puts in consideration the fact that for proper implementation of the agreement, the public contribution should be incorporated when making decision. As such, communities are encouraged to participate fully through making consultation for clarification and also offering their advices to the executive committee (Marcia Valiante, 2007).
f) Pollution prevention.
This aspect is aimed at minimizing environmental pollution by adopting things that are less risky to both the man and the environment.
h) Science-Based Management
One of the goals of the GLWQA was to use the available science and to blend this science with the research so as to achieve a sustainable management tool.
i) Restoration.
The executive committee was aware of the lost health, integrity and the sustainability of the ecosystem and therefore there was an urgent need to develop the measures to restore the ecosystem.
j) Prevention (protection from degradation)
The goal of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was to ensure that the ecosystem part that was not yet degraded was protected and improved for future sustainability. This also included the restoration of the already degraded ecosystem.
k) Ecosystem Approach
The most important aspect of the GLWQA is the ecosystem approach to Great Lakes governance. Here the interdependence of various natural elements is put under consideration with the target being the maximization of the benefits to the ecosystem. Land, air, water, human being and other small living things are said to be interdependent (Marcia Valiante, 2007).
Review of the GLWQA
This aspect as stated in the article ten of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement required the parties to jointly make a review into the operations of the Agreement. According to Valiante, M (2007), the review was also supposed to consider the effectiveness of the Agreement. However, the review aspect has not been very systematic due to various impediments. But as they argue, the focus should not be on the review but on the implementation of the Agreement. The proposal that was made to the executive committee was that it should consider altering the frequency of the review from the current six year cycle to either nine-year or twelve-year cycle.
Lakewide Management Plans
This aspect requires the governments to develop and implement plans aimed at reducing the amount of the dangerous pollutants so as to preserve the ecosystem and to accrue benefits to the ecosystem. The 1987 amendments led to the expansion of the roles of the Lakewide Management Plans to include addressing all the emphasis on the integrity of the Great Lakes waters using the lake-specific basis and the second one being the use of these plans to extend beyond lake-specific basis and encompass the connecting channels (Valiante, M, 2007).

Areas of Concern
Areas of concern (AOC) are also another aspect of the Great Lakes Governance. Nations have been very committed to the restoration of the Area of Concern (Marcia Valiante, 2007).
Addressing the Nearshore Zone
According to Velma I. G. (2006), the Nearshore zones refer to the areas other than the lakes that are used to provide water for drinking and recreation. They are also the areas where the waste waters are deposited and they include the bays and inlets. The Nearshore zone is currently endangered by the biological stressors, human activities, physical and chemical substances.
The ecosystem approach governance aspect.
Of all the governance aspects adopted by the Great Lakes Institutions, the Ecosystem approach is regarded as the most important principle of sustainable environmental governance. According to Mbote P. K. (2005-6), ecosystem approach is defined as a strategy that takes into account the relationship and the interdependence of the plants, animals, living and the non-living micro organism and the conservation of the resources through the management of land water and living organisms. Any effect on every element of the ecosystem is considered important since it is perceived that all elements in the ecosystem are linked to each other. UNEP (2009-11-23)
According to Manninen C, (2004), ecosystem approach is based on the following principles;
??? Consideration is made to the whole system and not a proportion of the system
??? There is a relationship that exists between and among the various components of the ecosystem including the living and the non-living things.
??? The society, the economy and the natural environment are all taken into consideration in the ecosystem approach
??? The concept of sustainability is a key component to the ecosystem approach
??? Both the present and the future generations of the human beings and the other species are well considered in the ecosystem approach.
The adoption of the ecosystem approach to the Great Lakes governance has impacted on the governance in the following ways. First, the ecosystem approach has enlarged the scope of the definition of the Great Lakes to include the entire drainage basin, including the biophysical and the social components. The definition also encompasses all the human activities in agriculture and the effects of the urban and industrial development (Manninen, C, 2004)
Secondly, the ecosystem approach takes into consideration the human health, cultures and economy in addition to the former definition that only embraced the interactions of water, air and the physical environment. This means that this approach is very useful in achieving the general welfare of all the living things. It can be argued that the incorporation of human aspect in the scope of the definition of the ecosystem approach is a breakthrough in attaining the health status of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The reasoning is that human activities are the main contributors in the ecosystem degradation (Young O. R, 1997)
The third effect is that the adoption of the ecosystem approach identifies the new governance zone. As such, this approach focuses not only on the Great Lakes ecosystem but also on the larger Great Lakes basin. Consequently, the basin has attracted many stakeholders including the governmental and non-governmental organizations. The presence of many stake holders means that more funding is received for the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem (Young O. R, 1997).
The federal government of the United States and the Canadian government have intervened in the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem by enacting federal laws that aim at strengthening the restoration efforts. In the year 2004, the federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force was created. According to Young O.R (1997), the task force was charged with the overall responsibility of offering the directions for the restoration policies. However, the formation of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration in 2004 made it possible for the task force to draw the support of the interested stakeholders. By incorporating several stakeholders in its governance, the Great Lakes governance has been able to come up with the strategies that are aimed at the restoration of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The key issue areas in the restoration strategy are; aquatic invasive species, fish and wildlife habitat, sustainable development and coastal heath. The strategy also is aimed at addressing other area such as the contaminated sediments, toxic pollutants, non point source pollution, indicators and the information.
Effects of Great Lakes Governance to Ecosystem Restoration
One of the effects of the Great Lakes governance to the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem is that efforts are been made to prevent the introduction of the Aquatic Invasive Species to the ecosystem. According to Maria P. (2010), the efforts are also being made to check the canals and waterways to ensure that there the spread of the aquatic invasive species is controlled. Once these species are controlled, the losses as a result of the invasion will be contained.
Secondly, Great Lakes Governance is making efforts to improve fisheries and to restore wetlands. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to afford a health ecosystem and marine life which will then give rise to the recreation industry for the economic benefit of the whole nation. (Maria, P, 2010).
Additionally, the effect of the Great lakes governance has led to the current efforts to stop the degradation of the water quality in the coastal areas. The efforts are now being directed towards the elimination of all untreated inputs of both human and industrial wastes so as to manage the waters used for recreation (Bosselmann K, Engel R. and Taylor P. n.d)
Further still, Great Lakes governance has ensured that there is sustainable development that is balanced in all factors (Grant C. H. 2007). As such, human activities are supposed to support and enhance a strong economy that is capable of meeting the social needs in a way that does not result to ecological disequilibrium.
Finally, non point source pollution has been identified to be from the specific sources including the factories. Therefore, measures have been put into place to ensure that the nonpoint source pollution is handled and that the factories are warned on the dangers of releasing improperly treated waste into the ecosystem. (Pele Maria 2010).
Being the largest fresh surface water system in the whole world, many people recognize the degradation of the Great Lakes in the world will cause disaster to more than 40 million people who depend on this ecosystem for their survival. As such there is a need for the restoration of the ecosystem so as to ensure that these lives are protected. The government intervention in the preservation of this ecosystem is an indication that the wake up call has been heard and all efforts are being directed towards affording a health ecosystem both for human beings and for the other living organisms.

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