Public Consultation on the Draft Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement Québec invites the population to comment on a new draft agreement, together with Ontario and the eight Great Lakes States

Québec, June 30, 2005 ─ The Minister of International Relations, Mme Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, and the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks and Deputy Government House Leader, Mr Thomas J. Mulcair, announced today a second public consultation on a revised draft agreement between the eight Great Lakes States, Ontario and Québec. This consultation will be held from June 30 to August 29, 2005.

The draft Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement is aimed at protecting and conserving, for future generations, the water of this great basin and the natural resources that depend on it. “The environment is one of the main issues in our relations with our American partners. Therefore, this draft agreement takes on a particularly great importance”, said Mme Gagnon-Tremblay. This agreement, which is part of a growing world-wide trend toward managing water at the watershed level, constitutes a first. For this will be the first time that sub-nations of different countries will be signing an agreement on the management of water withdrawals from a cross-border water basin. “In addition,” pointed out the Minister, “this agreement could be adopted as a model for the prevention or settlement of water disputes.”

This draft agreement, revised and submitted for a second consultation, provides for the implementation of commitments made by the Governors and Premiers in 2001, in the Great Lakes Charter Annex. The States and Provinces seek by this means to adopt common standards for the use and protection of water, which they will apply when making decisions on the use of water resources in the Great Lakes Basin and the St. Lawrence River.

“The principal issue for Québec is the short- and long-term preservation of the quantity and thus the quality of the waters available in the St. Lawrence watershed. This second draft Agreement is in the interest of Québec, for it assures it of a voice and an effective role in the management of water in the Great Lakes Basin. One element of importance for Québec is the prohibition of water diversions outside the Great Lakes Basin and the St. Lawrence River through the prescription of new and more restrictive rules. I attach great importance to this draft because it falls within a process that I undertook to give Québec a genuine Sustainable Development Plan that would place it among the most progressive States in North America”, stated Minister Mulcair.

This second draft Agreement, which covers the watershed of the St. Lawrence upstream of Trois-Rivières, also has advantages for the various users of water. For example, the adoption of a common standard for managing all withdrawals of water will enable Québec companies to benefit from a regulatory environment comparable to that of other companies in the Great Lakes Basin.

The draft Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement was prepared by the Water Management Working Group, composed of representatives appointed by the Provincial Premiers and State Governors. Throughout the development of the draft Agreement, this working group had the support of an advisory committee whose members represent various interests in the environmental, energy, agricultural, municipal, industrial and maritime transport sectors. Regular exchanges also took place with experts, observers and the representatives of other institutions engaged in the protection of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. Aboriginal communities were also consulted.

This same Working Group will gather the comments of the population of the States and Provinces on the new draft Agreement and will make recommendations to the Great Lakes Governors and the Premiers of Ontario and Québec.

The Agreement provides the following measures:

  • Prohibition of new or increased diversions outside the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Basin;

  • Adoption of a very high decision making standard concerning water diversion projects for public water supply on the border of the basin;

  • Setting up of a joint process, based on a common standard, for the evaluation by all ten Parties of water withdrawal projects within the basin when of significance on a regional scale;

  • Consideration throughout the basin of the objective of water conservation, whether in evaluating projects or for programs concerning existing users of water;

  • Evaluation on a regular basis or at the request of one of the Parties of the cumulative impacts of all withdrawals in the basin as a whole, taking into account the potential impact of climate change;

  • Gathering of comparable data on all withdrawals, diversions and water consumption.

Consultation

During the consultation period, the population of Québec will be able to express its opinion, in writing or at public sessions, on all aspects of the agreement between the eight American States and the two Provinces. Comments can be sent by email to the following address: consultationgrandslacs@mddep.gouv.qc.ca. Comments can also be expressed at public consultation sessions that will be held on July 26, 2005 in Montréal, and on July 28, 2005 in Québec.

Documents relative to the public consultation are available on the websites of the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs and the Ministère des Relations internationales, as well as on the website of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

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