News Release Article from  Global Affairs Canada

Canada and United States take action to address water quality issues in Lake of the Woods

August 4, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, today announced that the government is taking action to address water quality and ecosystem health issues in Lake of the Woods.

Recognizing that changing conditions in boundary water basins have significant implications for economic, social and environmental interests along the border, the government allocated up to $19.5 million over five years in the 2016 Budget to enable Canada to study water quality, quantity and flooding issues in four Canada-United States boundary basins. Of this, $5.5 million will be allocated to Environment and Climate Change Canada to undertake the required scientific studies in the Canadian portion of the Lake of the Woods Basin.

Canada and the United States have carefully reviewed the recommendations made by the International Joint Commission (IJC) in its January 2015 report, A Water Quality Plan of Study for the Lake of the Woods Basin. Building on the recommendations, the two countries have agreed that the most effective approach to address water quality issues in Lake of the Woods is for governments to develop and implement a binational science plan focused on phosphorus reductions within the basin.

The IJC has extensive and unique experience in handling the full range of regional transboundary water issues. The governments of Canada and the United States will engage the IJC to ensure it has an active role in addressing water quality issues in the basin.

Collaborating with the IJC, First Nations, Métis, provinces and local stakeholders, such as the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation, will produce new understanding that will benefit the residents of the Lake of the Woods Basin. Their studies will also contribute to a larger body of knowledge that could benefit others facing similar water quality issues.

Quotes

“Canada and the United States are acting on the priority concerns identified in the Lake of the Woods Basin. We will continue to work with the IJC and other stakeholders to improve water quality in the basin—including water used for drinking, recreation and to support fish habitat—for the benefit of residents on both sides of the border.”

- Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Science is at the core of our work, helping us to ensure a clean, safe and sustainable environment for Canadians. Together with our partners in the United States, we are taking action to protect our shared water resources and to restore water quality and ecosystem health in Lake of the Woods.”

- Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Today marks a significant step forward toward ensuring that Lake of the Woods remains a pristine and powerful reminder of the importance of protecting our natural habitat. I especially want to commend the efforts of the many stakeholders and organizations that are committed to ensuring that specific actions will take place to protect these waters for future generations.”

- Robert D. Nault, Member of Parliament for Kenora

“Development of a sustainability plan for the lake is the major goal of the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation. This investment will allow Canada to participate with the United States in the efforts to develop phosphorus concentration objectives and reduction targets to combat harmful algae blooms—a key pillar of a sustainability plan. We look forward to a suitable role for the IJC in monitoring and reporting on progress on this binational plan and to continuing to work with Environment and Climate Change Canada and other science agencies to address other areas of concern identified by the IJC, such as invasive species, contamination and monitoring.”

- Todd Sellers, Executive Director, Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation

Quick facts

  • Established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, the IJC is a binational organization mandated to prevent and resolve disputes, primarily those concerning water quantity and quality, along the boundary between Canada and the United States.
  • Canada’s participation in the IJC is the responsibility of Global Affairs Canada. The Canadian share of the IJC’s annual budget averages between $6 and 8 million and is allocated through the federal government’s annual budget and appropriations process.
  • The IJC’s report, A Water Quality Plan of Study for the Lake of the Woods Basin, identified excess algae due to high phosphorus levels as a priority threat to Lake of the Woods. Phosphorus is a nutrient that is contained in common items like detergents, fertilizers, manure, human waste and decaying plants. Too much phosphorus leads to excess algal growth, which can adversely affect water quality and human health.

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Contacts

Chantal Gagnon
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
343-203-1851
chantal.gagnon@international.gc.ca

Julian Morelli
Office of Robert Nault
613-996-1161

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Global Affairs Canada
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