Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes: annex 4


ANNEX 4: AREAS OF CONCERN

The purpose of this Annex is to restore water quality and ecosystem health in Areas of Concern.

Areas of Concern (AOCs) are geographic areas in the Great Lakes that were identified in the mid-1980s because water quality and ecosystem health had been severely degraded by human activities to the point that beneficial uses were impaired. Restoring these areas not only benefits the local community, it also contributes to improving water quality and ecosystem health throughout the Great Lakes. Forty-three locations were formally recognized as AOCs by Canada and the United States pursuant to the 1987 Protocol to the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: 12 in Canada, 26 in the United States and five binational AOCs that are shared by the two countries.

The environmental degradation within AOCs is primarily a legacy of the past caused by industrial activities, agriculture, urban and rural runoff, municipal wastewater effluents, land-use planning and practices on urban and rural lands. These past practices resulted in degraded water quality, contaminated river and lake sediment, and severely impacted fish and wildlife populations and habitats.

Working with community members and local governments, Canada and Ontario are implementing Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) to restore beneficial uses within the AOCs. Considerable progress has been made and, by 2010, three of the Canadian AOCs had been fully remediated and officially delisted (no longer deemed to be an AOC): Collingwood Harbour in 1994, Severn Sound in 2003, and Wheatley Harbour in 2010. Two additional Canadian AOCs have had all recommended remedial actions completed and have been recognized as being in recovery: Spanish Harbour in 1999 and Jackfish Bay in 2011. Environmental monitoring is continuing to confirm restoration of water quality and ecosystem processes.

In the remaining Canadian and binational AOCs, continued efforts are needed to complete implementation of the RAPs to restore ecosystem quality. This Annex includes initiatives that directly support the restoration and protection of environmental quality and beneficial uses in AOCs. This will contribute to the long-term goal of delisting the remaining AOCs and ensuring that environmental improvements achieved through the AOC process are sustained.

Map illustrating Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Map illustrating Great Lakes Areas of Concern. See long description below.
Description of Map

Canadian AOCs: Thunder Bay, Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Hamilton Harbour, Toronto and Region, Port Hope Haroubr, Bay of Quinte.
Canadian Goal One AOCs: Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Bay of Quinte, Niagara River, St. Lawrence River.
Delisted Canadian AOCs: Severn Sound, Collingwood Harbour, Wheatley Harbour.
Canadian Areas in Recovery: Spanish Harbour, Jackfish Bay.
Binational AOCs: St-Mary's River, St. Clair River, Detroit River, Niagara River, St. Lawrence River.
United States AOCs: Torch Lake, Ceer Lake-Carp Creek/River, Manistique River, Menominee River, Fox River/Southern Green Bay, Sheboygan River, Milwaukee Estuary, Waukegan Harbor, Grand Calumet River, Kalamazoo river, Muskegon Lake, White Lake, Saginaw River and Bay, Clinton River, Rouge River, River Raisin, Maumee River, Black River, Cuyahoga River, Ashtabula River, Buffalo River, Eighteenmile Creek, Rochester Embayment.
Delisted U.S. AOC: Oswego River, Presque Isle Bay.
U.S. Area in Recovery: None.

Goal 1: Complete priority actions for delisting in five AOCs: Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte, and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall).

Result 1.1 - Plans in place and being implemented to reduce microbial and other contaminants and excessive nutrients from industrial or municipal wastewater, stormwater and contaminated sites to achieve delisting targets in the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Promote the reduction of microbial and other contaminants and excessive nutrients from urban stormwater sources in the Bay of Quinte by working with local governments, First Nations and stakeholders to identify preferred options to address stormwater controls and promote and monitor the completion of the planning for these facilities; and

  • (b) Promote and monitor upgrades to the Township of Red Rock’s sewage treatment facility from primary to secondary treatment in the Nipigon Bay AOC.

Ontario will:

  • (c) Apply regulatory measures as appropriate to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of municipal and industrial wastewater in AOCs; and

  • (d) Continue its regulatory oversight to ensure measures are in place and are being implemented to reduce the migration of pollutants from contaminated municipal and industrial sites within the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte, and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOCs.

Result 1.2 - Plans in place and being implemented to reduce microbial and other contaminants and excessive nutrients from urban and rural non-point sources to meet delisting criteria in the Bay of Quinte and Niagara River AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Identify and promote the implementation of urban and rural non-point source priority actions for delisting in the Bay of Quinte and Niagara River AOCs by providing technical advice, workshops, education and outreach materials, and support for landowner contact programs, environmental stewardship projects and beneficial management practices; and

  • (b) Complete the development and promote implementation of the Bay of Quinte phosphorus reduction strategy based on the most up-to-date science and information.

Result 1.3 - Implementation of contaminated sediment management strategies in the Niagara River, Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Continue to implement the long-term sediment monitoring plan in the Niagara River AOC and the administrative controls for monitored natural recovery according to the Lyons Creek East Contaminated Sediment Strategy;

  • (b) Provide support as needed for the coordination of the Lyons Creek East Contaminated Sediment Strategy administrative controls;

  • (c) Continue to implement the Trent River Mouth administrative controls and associated long-term monitoring;

  • (d) Provide support as needed for the coordination of the Trent River Mouth administrative controls;

  • (e) Continue to monitor the contaminated sediment deposits along the Cornwall waterfront in accordance with the Cornwall Sediment Strategy monitoring plan;

  • (f) Continue to implement the Cornwall Sediment Strategy as outlined in the Cornwall Sediment Strategy Accord and Protocol (2005); and

  • (g) Provide support as appropriate for the coordination of the Cornwall Sediment Strategy administrative controls.

Result 1.4 - Plans in place and being implemented to restore fish and wildlife habitats and populations to meet delisting targets in the Niagara River and Bay of Quinte AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Support the completion of key actions to restore fish and wildlife habitats and populations identified in the 2010 Niagara River RAP Stage 2 Update report and complete the status assessment of fish populations; and

  • (b) Support the completion of key actions to restore fish habitats and populations identified in the Bay of Quinte Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 report and continue to promote the integration of the fish habitat management plan, fisheries management plan and the natural heritage strategy into municipal and regional official plans in the Bay of Quinte AOC.

Result 1.5 - Informed, effective collaboration amongst governments and communities to prioritize and complete actions required for delisting and confirming environmental recovery in Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Consult with the community on the status of environmental recovery, completion of actions for delisting, and monitoring needs in the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River and Bay of Quinte AOCs;

  • (b) Support the activities of the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River and the Bay of Quinte RAP implementation teams to coordinate and implement projects, report on progress, facilitate community engagement and consultation, and promote adoption of mechanisms to sustain long-term environmental protection;

  • (c) Support the activities of public outreach and community groups involved in the communication and implementation of RAPs in the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOCs; and

  • (d) Identify opportunities and mechanisms to communicate and collaborate with First Nations in AOCs during the process of delisting an AOC or designating it as an AOC in Recovery.

Result 1.6 - Completion and implementation of long-term monitoring plans, assessments and environmental status reports.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Finalize and implement monitoring plans to confirm status of impaired beneficial uses in the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River and Bay of Quinte AOCs;

  • (b) Complete assessments of beneficial use impairments and delisting or AOC in Recovery reports as appropriate for the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River and Bay of Quinte AOCs; and

  • (c) Complete the environmental status reports for the Nipigon Bay, Peninsula Harbour, Niagara River, Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOCs and transmit the reports to the International Joint Commission for comment.

Ontario will:

  • (d) Implement the long-term monitoring program of Peninsula Harbour contaminated sediment.

Goal 2: Make significant progress towards remedial action plan implementation, environmental recovery and restoration of beneficial uses in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Detroit RIver, Hamilton Harbour, Toronto and region, and Port Hope AOCs.

Result 2.1 - Plans in place and being implemented to reduce microbial and other contaminants and excessive nutrients from municipal sewage treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, urban stormwater and industrial wastewater to achieve delisting targets in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Detroit River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Promote eligible investments that support the delisting of AOCs and improve the water quality of the Great Lakes as priority considerations under applicable infrastructure and other funding programs;

  • (b) Continue to promote and monitor implementation of priority actions related to sewage treatment plant upgrades in the Hamilton Harbour AOC;

  • (c) Continue to identify and promote implementation of the priority actions to address combined sewer overflows and stormwater management as appropriate in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs;

  • (d) Continue to provide support to AOC municipalities, as appropriate, to:
    • Research, develop and demonstrate potentially cost-effective approaches and technologies for stormwater management;
    • Prepare/update combined sewer overflow and stormwater management plans as appropriate in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs; and
    • Conduct pre-implementation studies, such as environmental study reports, sustainable asset management plans, environmental management plans, and integrated watershed management plans, to prepare AOC municipalities to identify and address infrastructure requirements.

Ontario will:

  • (e) Apply regulatory, policy and voluntary measures as appropriate to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of municipal and industrial wastewater combined sewer overflows and stormwater in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs;

  • (f) Track decommissioning of industrial facilities in the St. Clair River AOC to ensure RAP delisting targets are met; and

  • (g) Continue its regulatory oversight to ensure measures are in place and are being implemented to reduce the migration of pollutants from contaminated municipal and industrial sites within the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Detroit River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs.

Result 2.2 - Plans in place and being implemented to reduce microbial and other contaminants and excessive nutrients from rural and urban non-point sources to achieve RAP delisting criteria in the St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Identify and support rural and urban non-point source priority actions for delisting in the St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs by:
    • Working with local communities to collect and evaluate data and use tools such as models to determine and target priority areas for reductions to achieve delisting criteria;
    • Transferring technologies and information on best management practices on farms and rural properties;
    • Providing technical advice and outreach materials to promote awareness and stewardship initiatives regarding sources of non-point source contaminants and actions that reduce non-point source pollution;
    • Assisting landowners to access funding for projects that improve farm management practices; and
    • Supporting environmental stewardship projects and application of best management practices.

Result 2.3 - Progress in developing and implementing sediment management strategies to reduce ecological and human health risk from contaminated sediments in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Detroit River, Hamilton Harbour and Port Hope AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Complete the development of contaminated sediment management strategies for the Thunder Bay (North Harbour site), St. Marys River (east of Bellevue Marine Park site) and St. Clair River AOCs;

  • (b) With the local community, begin implementation of the Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Management Project in the Hamilton Harbour AOC;

  • (c) Provide technical support and advice for the characterization and development of sediment management strategies for contaminated slips in the Hamilton Harbour AOC;

  • (d) Undertake monitoring to confirm restoration of beneficial uses in areas where sediment remediation has been completed (Thunder Bay NOWPARC site, St. Clair River Zone 1 and Detroit River - Turkey Creek); and

  • (e) Develop a framework for monitored natural recovery.

Canada will:

  • (f) As part of the federal Port Hope Area Initiative, continue to lead the funding, planning, oversight and implementation of plans to address contaminated sediment in Port Hope Harbour.

Result 2.4 - Development of long-term management plans and implementation of priority actions for rehabilitation and protection of fish and wildlife habitats and populations in St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Detroit River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Make progress on fish and wildlife habitat protection and rehabilitation priority actions in the St. Marys River, St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour, and Toronto and Region AOCs through collaboration and community involvement;

  • (b) Support the completion of key actions to restore fish and wildlife habitat and populations identified in the 2010 Detroit River RAP Stage 2 report; and

  • (c) Implement priority actions required for delisting the Toronto and Region and Hamilton Harbour AOCs as identified in fisheries management and natural heritage plans and strategies, such as the Toronto Waterfront Aquatic Habitat Restoration Strategy, and the Fish and Wildlife Habitat Project Plan for Hamilton Harbour.

Result 2.5 - Informed, effective collaboration amongst governments, communities and individuals to prioritize and complete actions required for delisting and confirming environmental recovery in AOCs.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Support existing local community RAP implementation groups in the St. Clair River, Detroit River, Hamilton Harbour, Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, and Toronto and Region AOCs;

  • (b) Provide information, opportunities and support for community input, consultation and participation on RAP projects and initiatives through education, outreach, workshops, technology transfer and funding;

  • (c) Collaborate with local community RAP implementation groups and the Great Lakes community, as needed, to prepare, update and publish RAP progress reports, beneficial use impairment status reports, and information materials, and to maintain current websites; and

  • (d) Identify opportunities and mechanisms to communicate and collaborate with First Nations in AOCs during the development and implementation of priority actions.

Result 2.6 - Identification of monitoring needs and completion of studies to evaluate results to assess environmental recovery status and support advancement of remediation strategies and re-designation of beneficial uses from “impaired” or “requires further assessment” status to “not impaired” status.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Review and revise/update delisting criteria as appropriate in the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, and Toronto and Region AOCs;

  • (b) Develop and implement AOC specific monitoring plans to track progress toward environmental recovery and meeting delisting targets in consultation with AOC communities for the Thunder Bay, St. Marys River, Detroit River, St. Clair River, Hamilton Harbour and Toronto and Region AOCs. This will be accomplished through agency programs or by providing scientific, technical and funding support and collaborative arrangements with local organizations as required;

  • (c) Provide an updated report on the status of beneficial use impairments in the remaining twelve AOCs and the AOCs in Recovery by March 31, 2016; and

  • (d) Identify and promote science and remedial actions in the Goal 2 AOCs and in AOCs in Recovery with a target of increasing the number of beneficial use impairments re-designated as “not impaired” from 18 to 30.

Goal 3: Implement environmental monitoring, management measures and reporting in delisted AOCs and AOCs in recovery.

Result 3.1 - Implementation of the post-delisting or AOC in Recovery monitoring and reporting in the Jackfish Bay, Spanish Harbour, and Wheatley Harbour AOCs, consistent with delisting reports or AOC in Recovery requirements.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Continue to monitor environmental conditions in Wheatley Harbour and report by March 31, 2016 on the results;

  • (b) Undertake contaminant exposure assessments for areas of contaminated sediment in Spanish Harbour as part of its AOC in Recovery Monitoring Plan;

  • (c) Implement post-delisting monitoring and reporting as may be required for delisted AOCs identified in Goal 1 of this Annex; and

  • (d) Continue to implement the Jackfish Bay AOC in Recovery Monitoring Plan.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Privacy statement

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: