Signing of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement

An international agreement to support sustainable development of the Great Lakes - St.Lawrence River Basin

Québec City, December 14, 2005 ─ Québec Premier, Jean Charest, today announced the signing of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement with the province of Ontario and the eight Great Lakes States (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). Under this agreement, all ten governments agree to act collectively to reinforce the protection for the waters of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin, with a view towards sustainable development. The agreement was signed during a meeting of the Council of Great Lakes Governors held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“I am particularly pleased with this international agreement since it permits the eight U.S. states and two provinces to work together to protect the waters we share, which represent approximately one-fifth of the planet's total fresh water resources. This unparalleled agreement includes substantial benefits for Québec and meets our expectations, particularly with regard to a prohibition on water diversions from this vast hydrographic Basin. It will contribute to the short-term and long-term preservation of the quantity and quality of water of this natural environment of incomparable richness,” declared the Premier, who added that “to reach such an agreement confirms Québec's ability to negotiate and conclude international agreements on issues that come under its jurisdiction.”

The agreement is ensues from the commitments made by the Premiers and Governors when they signed the Great Lakes Charter Annex in 2001. It reflects the many comments and suggestions that came forth during two public consultations conducted simultaneously by all ten governments in 2004 and 2005. This public participation process is a first for such an international agreement.

The Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, Thomas J. Mulcair, Québec's representative at the meeting of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, expressed satisfaction with the agreement. “I am very honoured today to be present at the signing of this agreement, which reflects one of the Québec government's highest concerns, sustainable development. In my opinion, this agreement is a concrete example of sustainable development over a very large Basin that is home to unique ecosystems and the heart of economic activity for this part of the continent. It combines environmental protection and resource integrity with economic and social development to benefit future generations. It is imperative that we take collective action immediately because prevention and precaution are two fundamental principles of sustainable development,” Mr. Mulcair added.

Minister of International Relations, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, gave emphasis to the unique framework of this historic agreement: “This is the first time that Federated States from two countries have signed an agreement to protect the waters of such a vast watershed. The importance of the agreement becomes clear when you consider that it has been signed at a crucial moment with respect to water supply. The endorsement of the agreement is also an opportunity for Québec to strengthen cooperative initiatives with the eight Great Lakes States and Ontario, which are important partners for Québec.”

The agreement will help prevent disputes and avert potential water crisis that may put Québec at risk, given its downstream location in the basin. It will enable the province to guard against the effects of water diversions from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin and render impossible bulk exports of water from the basin to other regions in North America or the world. The few exceptions to the ban on diversions set forth in the Agreement will be strictly controlled and submitted to an extremely thorough regional assessment process. Québec will also be consulted on water withdrawal projects within the basin and a minimum Standard will be applied to such projects. The cumulative impacts of water withdrawal and diversions will be studied systematically and will serve to tighten rules and regulations if necessary.

The agreement also provides the flexibility states and provinces need to manage and regulate new or increased water withdrawals within the Basin. Each Party to the agreement will therefore choose the sectors to which the common decision-making Standard will apply, but within a common framework. The Parties always have the option to enforce stricter regulations if they choose. On the whole, Québec improves cooperation and dialogue with key economic and environmental partners and retains its decision-making authority over water management under its jurisdiction. The agreement also contains provisions under which the States and provinces will implement water conservation programs for all existing users.

The agreement and a summary of the agreement are available at the websites of the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca), the Ministère des Relations internationales (www.mrifce.gouv.qc.ca) and the Council of Great Lakes Governors (www.cglg.org).

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