Alphabet of agreements working for Great Lakes water quality

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard officials committed to the CANUSLAK agreement to protect the Great Lakes. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

If nothing else, government departments are good at creating acronyms for programs and agencies. There’s POTUS, SCOTUS, EPA, CIA, DOJ, IJC, DNR, USCG, OOAA and hundreds of others.

You’ve never heard of OOAA? I made it up. It’s the Office Of Acronym Approval. Maybe there is one.

I recently read a news release announcing anniversaries for a couple off ongoing “acronym programs” involving the Great Lakes.  Both of them are important components of the efforts to protect the water quality in the Great Lakes. Do you recognize these alphabet programs?

The oldest of the two is the GLWQA, which stands for the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This one is now 50 years old, being a commitment made in 1972 between the United States and Canada to restore and protect the waters of the Great Lakes.

The GLWQA is under the auspices of another alphabet agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

Currently the GLNPA (Great Lakes National Program Office), also a sub-agency of the EPA,  coordinates the efforts (on the American side) to fulfill the U.S. commitments in 10 different areas – called Annexes.  These include areas of concern  (restoring highly contaminated areas); lakewide management; chemicals of mutual concern; nutrients; vessel discharges; aquatic invasive species; habitat and species; groundwater; climate change; and science.

The second alphabet program, CANUSLAK (CANada-US-LAKe), is only 10 years old, but just as important and operates much more at the grass-roots level, or perhaps I should say it operates at the water level.  CANUSLAK is the U.S. Coast Guard’s “military-speak” for the agreement between the USCG and the Canadian Coast Guard to work together, instead of individually, should a response to chemical, petroleum or other sort of pollution spill or event occur anywhere along the nearly 1500 miles of our shared border between the US and Canada in the Great Lakes.

The pollution certainly wouldn’t respect the border and would flow where ever the currents or wind took them. It makes more sense for the response teams to work together than duplicating efforts on each side of the line or hoping the “other side” handled the situation on their side.

This agreement is recodified every five years and representatives from both the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard recently signed off on the agreement that they will honor until 2027.

So ISYOTL (I’ll see you on the lake). Thanks to the alphabet of caretakers, I’m sure the water will be clear and clean.

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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