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Great Lakes Strategy and Action – OVERVIEW

Ontario borders on 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, and is blessed with over 250,000 inland lakes that all need our care and attention. Many FOCA members have property on the Great Lakes, or are affected by developments on the Great Lakes.

September 27-29, 2022 – 2022 Great Lakes Public Forum – Niagara Falls & virtual. This forum will provide an opportunity for members of the public, organizations, and agencies with an interest or involvement in the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes to learn, share, and participate in Great Lake discussions. The Governments of Canada and the United States will discuss the state of the Great Lakes, restoration and protection opportunities and binational priorities for science and action, and invite the general public to participate and comment on these plans. Get information & a link to register for virtual participation, here:

The International Joint Commission will also discuss and receive public input on the Progress Report of the Parties at the Forum.  Read the notice from the IJC (PDF, 2 pages) that explains the various ways you can add your comments to the process.

June 22, 2022 – Great Lakes levels are likely to see continued rise in next three decades (American Geophysical Union)

March 2022 – Period of Public Comment: “Plan 2014” is the plan for regulating Lake Ontario outflows that went into effect in 2017. However, record floods in 2 of the 3 following years led the International Joint Commission (IJC) to ask its Great-Lakes St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee to launch an expedited review of Plan 2014. Public comment on the report on Phase 1 of the review is invited until April 18, 2022. The feedback received in this public comment period will be considered by the IJC and will inform its own findings and recommendations that will be submitted to the governments of Canada and the United States.

Learn more, read the report, and share your input via this webpage:

Get to Know the Great Lakes (from

gl_basin_e_1800Lake Ontario
Lake Erie 
Lake Huron 
Lake Michigan
Lake Superior


>see more news, on FOCA’s webpage: Great Lakes Environmental Research

March 9, 2021 – The Great Lakes Region Needs a Coordinated, Consistent Approach to Climate Change (IJC)

October 13, 2020 – Building Resilience along Lake Michigan and Huron Shorelines (IJC)

September 2020 – Great Lakes Organizations Urge U.S. Congress to Include Great Lakes Priorities in WRDA Reauthorization Organizations representing Great Lakes states, tribes, state legislators, municipalities, conservation organizations, labor, business, and ports have urged members of Congress to include key priorities for the Great Lakes in the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act. (Healing our Waters Great Lakes Coalition)

September 11, 2020 – Assessing economic impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes: the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute has released new research which will help quantify the economic impacts and options in times of water disruptions. It is the first attempt to assess the role of water in the broader economy of the Great Lakes Basin and Ontario as a whole, and should be a great tool for federal and provincial authorities responsible for managing the economies and resources of the Great Lakes Basin. Read more from Water Canada on the research.

August 25, 2020 – Renewed Support for CELA’s Healthy Great Lakes Program .  FOCA is pleased to be on the Advisory Committee for this important work.

June 9, 2020 – the International Joint Commission (IJC) reports that an ongoing review of the regulation of Lake Ontario outflows will be informed by a diverse Public Advisory Group of Canadian and US citizens. Read more from the IJC, here.

March 26, 2020 – EPA suspends enforcement of environmental laws amid coronavirus  This announcement raises grave concerns about the extent to which this could impact the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Boundary Waters Treaty, and new NAFTA’s environmental provisions. More about the possible implications for Canada, from CELA: US Relaxation of Environmental Rules in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic – The Implications for Canada and Mexico (March 29, 2020)

September 2018 – Great Lakes Survey results: The International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board has released new survey results that 88% of  4,250 Canadian and US respondents believe protecting the Great Lakes is important. Top

on respondents’ list of potential negative impacts? Invasive species, followed by algae blooms. Read highlights from the IJC, by clicking here.

April 11, 2018Key resources for Great Lakes stories (Society of Environmental Journalists)

December 3, 2017Dan Egan on the Great Lakes “One of the easiest, most powerful things you can do is to raise a kid who loves the lakes.” (CBC)

December  1, 2017 – Canada’s  Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announces that the Government of Canada will invest $45 million for the Great Lakes Protection Initiative, part of the $70.5 million of new funding allocated for freshwater protection in Budget 2017. The Government of  is working with the Government of Ontario and partners to protect the Great Lakes. New programming will focus on reducing toxic and nuisance algae and strengthening the resilience of Great Lakes coastal wetlands (

November 30, 2017International Joint Commission says U.S., Canada fall short on protecting Great Lakes  (CBC)
See IJC’s 2017 Triennial Assessment of Progress report under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA)

November 28, 2017 – Bipartisan group of U.S. Senators call on the Office of Management and Budget to include $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the 2018 Interior and Environment funding bill.  Said Senator Tammy Baldwin (Dem.; WI.), “Preserving the Great Lakes is not just an environmental goal – it is an economic necessity, and I’m glad to see the Senate Appropriations Committee has taken this positive step to fully fund this important initiative.”

June 2017HAVE YOUR SAY! Interested individuals have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the 2017 Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan and provide their perspective on the environmental conditions, issues, or concerns that should be considered, and suggestions on the prioritization of those issues or approaches for addressing them. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement commits Canada and the United States to prepare and issue Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs) for each of the five Great Lakes every five years.

The 2017 Lake Ontario LAMP is expected to have a similar scope and format to the Lake Superior LAMP released last year, and the Lake Huron LAMP currently being drafted.

Please direct your submissions and questions to the Lake Ontario Partnership by June 20th, 2017: Marie-Claire Doyle, Environment and Climate Change Canada:

March 31, 201763 U.S. Representatives Write Letter for Great Lakes Funding (Water Canada)

October 2016 – An overview of the state of the Great Lakes today ( 

More video from the Great Lakes Public Forum 2016 – Celebrating our Great Lakes (Detroit Public TV)

September 28, 2016U.S. House of Representatives passes $300M water funding bill with Great Lakes protection measures (

September 27, 2016 – The Great Lakes are an ecosystem in trouble. Every three years the Canadian and American governments and interested parties come together for the Great Lakes Public Forum. This year they’ll gather in Toronto Oct. 4-6 to discuss the increasing pressures on the Great Lakes and give the public a chance to weigh in with their concerns. Join TVO throughout the week for a special series about the Great Lakes on The Agenda with Steve Paikin.   ( TVO will also be live streaming throughout the forum, in partnership with Detroit Public Television.

September 27, 2016Exactly How Much Plastic Is Floating In Great Lakes Might Surprise You (Time Warner Cable News)

July 21, 2016What Caused Record Water Level Rise in the Great Lakes? (American Geophysical Union)

June 21, 2016City of Waukesha,WI has been given approval to draw water from Lake Michigan (CP)

May 20, 2016 – Great Lakes Premiers and Governors Fail First Test of Key Great Lakes Agreement (CELA)

March 22, 2016Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy Progress Report (2016) was released. This is the first progress report,  outlining the accomplishments and new scientific findings during the first three years of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy.

Also on March 22nd, was the inaugural Great Lakes Guardians Council (GLGC) meeting. The GLGC was established under the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015 as a forum for Great Lakes ministers and representatives of diverse interests to exchange information and consult on actions that achieve the purposes of the Act.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has provided a new draft GLGC Statement of Intent.

New Poll: Great Lakes Restoration Supported by Huge Majority of Voters across Political Spectrum

In February 2016 the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition  commissioned a poll which surveyed people living in the eight U.S. Great Lakes states: Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York , and Pennsylvania. The poll shows that large majorities (86 percent) living in the Great Lakes strongly support the U.S. federal government’s annual investment of $300 million in Great Lakes restoration. Additionally, people polled feel that there are threats that remain in the lakes, and that these should be addressed by federal government investments.
See more in this Press Release (March 31, 2016)

Nuclear Hot Spots MapMarch 2016 – FOCA joined more than 100 environmental, health and advocacy groups in signing a letter to urge the Canadian and U.S. federal governments to designate radionuclides as Chemicals of Mutual Concern under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Read the letter (PDF, 11 pages) and click the map at right for more details.

January 2016:  In a recent report, the International Joint Commission (IJC) described the progress being made on protecting the Great Lakes from potentially harmful consumptive uses and diversions. The report generally found that federal, state and provincial governments in the Great Lakes Basin are making progress towards protecting the Great Lakes from water diversions and managing consumptive uses, and that policy gaps identified by in 2000 have been largely filled.

The IJC observes that there continue to be large voids between our knowledge regarding levels and flows, and the impact they have on the ecosystem of the basin. Due to prevailing uncertainties such as those posed by climate change and the sheer threat of the unexpected, the precautionary principle needs to be continually applied by basin jurisdictions to ensure, to the extent possible, adequate supplies for all socio-economic and ecosystem uses for the long term.

U.S. Commissioner Dereth Glance commented, “There is no surplus Great Lakes water, as only one percent of the Great Lakes water supply is renewed each year by rainfall and snowmelt.”

The director of North America’s leading centre for freshwater aquatic research talks about the threats to and the silver linings behind the Great Lakes – Click here for info. From the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)

June 15, 2015 – Premier Wynne to sign new agreements with Ohio and Michigan to combat invasive species and the threat of algae blooms in the Great Lakes (Toronto Star)

May 26, 2015 – Water levels low in Lake Ont., dry spell continues  (Niagara Falls Review)

February 3, 2015 – Great Lakes Water Level updates:  The International Lake Superior Board of Control says Lake Superior had the highest January level since 1997 — about 22 cm or 9 inches higher than the long-term average for the month.  According to the board’s Canadian secretary, higher levels were expected heading into the winter because the 11 months before January were wetter than usual. The monthly mean water level of Lake Michigan-Huron in January was 22 cm (9 in) above the long-term (1918-2013) January average, the highest January level since 1998.   For more information see the news report including the recent press release from the IJC  (CBC News).

January 13, 2015 – The Lake Superior Biodiversity Conservation Strategy has been released for review. Along with input from the public, the Lake Superior Binational Program and the Lake Superior Lakewide Management Plan partners developed the draft Strategy in 2014, and are currently developing 20 corresponding regional plans. Together, these documents will provide a common framework for implementing actions all around Lake Superior that will meet goals of protecting and restoring Lake Superior’s habitat and species.

Please review and comment on the full draft – Lake Superior Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. Your comments are critical to ensure accuracy and success of the final document. Comments are due by January 31, 2015 and can be sent to Megan Ihrig at For more information read this letter from Nature Conservancy Canada.

December, 2104 –Mayors Call for Action to Protect Drinking Water from Toxic Algae (Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative)

April 24, 2014 – 8th Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) (pdf; 79 pages) was posted for public comment. COA is a principal tool for Ontario and Canada to coordinate their work to address their respective and shared commitments to protect the Great Lakes.

Provincial signatories to the 8th COA will include the Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Food, and Rural Affairs. The Agreement will remain in force for five years.

The proposed 8th COA consists of a Framework Agreement and Fourteen Annexes – each Annex specifies Goals, Results, and Commitments of each of the Parties to the Agreement. Ontario has negotiated an agreement that will support implementation of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy. Canada has focused on aligning commitments with the 2012 Canada-U.S. GLWQA.

FOCA joined with over 20 signatories from Canada and the USA to provide comments on the proposed COA to the governments of Ontario (pdf; 8 pages), and Canada (pdf; 7 pages).

Older News

April 24, 2014 – Ontario posts draft regulations re: the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement. The regulatory amendments (pdf; 11 pages) would bring the Agreement (signed in 2005!) into full force. Comments were welcome on this proposal until  until June 9, 2014. The Agreement commits the provinces and states that share the Great Lakes to better protect, conserve and restore the waters of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin.

December 11, 2014 – Rising Great Lakes water levels  end 15-year low period .  CBC

March 19, 2014 – Corps to study St. Clair River “speedbumps”. Sarnia Observer

March 14, 2014 – New study on Lake Erie Phosphorus challenges, algae, and hypoxia. From EcoFore. Listen to the radio interview on NPR Michigan.

March 7, 2014 – Georgian Bay water levels (may be) rising Orillia Packet

February 19, 2014 – Minister of Environment seeks to break legislative stalemate on Great Lakes Act, Anti-Slapp legislation by appealing to the NDP. See letter (pdf; 2 pages).

January 21, 2014 – New Funding announced for Great Lakes Cities Climate Adaptation

October 10, 2013 – FOCA is quoted in MP Brian Masse’s Press release, urging the federal government to sign the Canada-Ontario Agreement with respect to the Great Lakes. Read the Media Release… (pdf; 1 page)

Oct. 9, 2013 – Bill 6, the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act 2013 passes second reading in the Ontario Legislature. Read more.

Oct. 7, 2013 – FOCA speaks out about the unsigned Canada Ontario Agreement – needed for the protection of our Great Lakes. Video

NOTE: The long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel is being executed via an “Adaptive Phased Management” approach through the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).

August 9, 2013 – FOCA and partners urge Federal and Ontario Ministers to renew the overdue Canada-Ontario Agreement (pdf; 2 pages), and implement the Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol of 2012.

July 30, 2013 -Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation notes water levels on Lake Huron are rising again. See the CTV report

July 24, 2013 – 80% cut to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funding in the US proposed by House subcommittee (WBEZ)

July 2, 2013 -NOAA predicts harmful algal bloom will develop over western Lake Erie in summer 2013.

June 30: Great Lakes United (GLU) closes its doors

May 27, 2013 – CBC News report on the proposed Nuclear waste site on Lake Huron

May 28, 2013 – Lake Huron water testing underway for the season. Watch or read the CTV News report…

May 2013 – Lake Huron undergoing major changes: Sun Times, Owen Sound. Read the article….

June 3, 2013 – IJC prepares for hearings on “modified” water levels plan. Get the story in print or audio from North Country Public Radio (NY)

May 2, 2013 – CTV News item: IJC recommends new structure be built in St. Clair River to elevate dwindling water levels. Read it here

May 2013 – Chi-Cheemaun ferry sailing season between Tobermory and South Baymouth delayed due to low water. Owen Sound Sun Times

April 26 – IJC News Release: the Commission now recommends structural options to restore water levels in Lake Huron by up to 25cm, over time, in response to public calls for action.

April 29, 2013 -CBC News story reports scientist expect toxic algae on Lake Erie this year

March 20, 2013 – “Counting the Costs of low water” – Read this article from Cottage Country Now about dropping Georgian Bay water levels

March 15, 2013 – the IJC’s International Adaptive Management Task Team released its proposed plan, “Building Across the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River System: An Adaptive Management Plan for Addressing Extreme Water Levels.” (pdf; 72 pages) The plan proposes collaborative efforts aimed at providing a more efficient and cost effective way to support decision-making aimed at reducing the impacts associated with future extreme water levels. Public input was available until April 15, 2013.

GLPA_announcement_Terry_and_Minister_Jim_Bradley_WEBRES_Toronto_6June2012December 2012 – Minister of Environment announces final Great Lakes Strategy (pdf; 1 page).

Low Water Blues An Economic Impact Assessment of Future Low Water Levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River (June 2014) (pdf; 120 pages)

IMAGE: June 2012, Terry Rees speaks with Ontario Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley at the announcement of the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act, Toronto.

Related Resources on FOCA’s website:

Great Lakes Environmental Research webpage

Michelle LewinGreat Lakes Strategy and Action – OVERVIEW