Plastics and algal blooms included in draft of new Great Lakes agreement

The waters of Lake Erie are seen along the beach in Erieau on August 24, 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

The federal and provincial governments want the public’s feedback on a new draft agreement to protect the Great Lakes.

The agreement has been in place since 1971, but the draft released Monday addresses new concerns including road salt, plastics, and the development of toxic algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie. It also takes the next step to engage First Nation and Metis communities.

Lake Erie, July 28, 2015. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens)

The public can comment on the draft agreement until September 4, and a final deal is expected sometime next year.

“Now more than ever, we know how important it is to protect the health of our nature and ecosystems,” said federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. “Taking care of our Great Lakes will also help protect more than 3,500 different species that live in the basin.”

The agreement seeks to coordinate efforts to clean up and maintain the health of the basin, home to 10-million Canadians. Since its inception, it has restored water quality and the ecosystems in Collingwood Harbour, Severn Sound, and Wheatley Harbour.

A Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan was also developed to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie. Phosphorus, mainly a byproduct of farming, is one of the causes of toxic algal blooms.

“Our Great Lakes are the foundation of Ontario’s economic prosperity and wellbeing, but they are increasingly facing pressures, such as climate change, pollution, and urban development,” said Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek. “This is why we committed to a number of important actions in our Made In Ontario Environment Plan to restore and protect our Great Lakes, including working with Canada and on a new Canada-Ontario Great Lakes Agreement — it is only by working together that we can take effective action to protect these vital ecosystems.”