Month: July 2019

Canada-Ontario Agreement on the Great Lakes (2020 Draft) – Seeking Public Input

Canada is addressing threats to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health and is working with partners and the public to protect this vital shared resource.

Today, the governments of Canada and Ontario released a draft of a new Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health to coordinate actions to protect water quality in our Great Lakes. To help develop this new Agreement, Canada and Ontario are seeking input from the public. The draft Agreement will be available for public comment between July 5 and September 4. A final agreement is expected in 2020.

The new draft Agreement is designed to advance action on key challenges facing the Great Lakes, like tackling harmful and nuisance algae in Lake Erie and cleaning up the Great Lakes Areas of Concern. It also includes actions for improving wastewater and stormwater management and reducing pollution, including a new focus on road salt and plastic pollution, and ongoing issues like invasive species and climate resilience. The new draft Agreement will also take the next steps to enhance engagement with First Nations and Métis communities and will include a new focus on fish consumption.

Canada and Ontario have a long history of working together to improve conditions in the Great Lakes. Since 1971, federal and provincial agencies have cooperated under a series of Canada-Ontario Agreements (COA).

COA provides a 5-year work plan for how Canada and Ontario will work together to restore and protect the Great Lakes. It also describes how they will implement provisions of the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The 2014 COA expires in December 2019.

Canada and Ontario have negotiated a draft 2020 COA. The draft agreement includes commitments related to the following priorities:

  • nutrients
  • harmful pollutants
  • wastewater and stormwater
  • discharges from vessels
  • Areas of Concern
  • lakewide management
  • aquatic invasive species
  • habitat and species
  • groundwater quality
  • climate change impacts and resilience
  • from awareness to action
  • First Nations and the Great Lakes
  • Métis and the Great Lakes

All interested parties are invited to read the draft 2020 COA and provide comments.

Associated Links

Comments or questions on the proposed draft should be submitted to the Great Lakes National Program Office, Environment and Climate Change Canada at ec.grandslacs-greatlakes.ec@canada.ca, or via mail at the address below, by September 4, 2019.  

Great Lakes National Program Office
Environment and Climate Change Canada
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON M3H 5T4
Government of Canada
Website


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Green Infrastructure and Living Shorelines

High water levels have prevailed across the Great Lakes watershed this season. While many are calling for higher outflow in order to lower lake levels, experts agree that the main issue is changing climate. (Photo: NOAA)

Flooding and Coastal Erosion in the Great Lakes


This spring, extremely high water levels and windy weather have lead to major flooding and extensive damage to coastal infrastructure in the Great Lakes. While the issue of how much we can mitigate these impacts by adjustments to the outflow of each of the Great Lakes is complicated; most experts agree that the main culprit is record level precipitation and more frequent and intense storms due to a rapidly changing global climate.

If these types of changes are expected to continue, then solving these issues will require adjustments to more than policy. One area that is receiving a great deal of attention amongst Great Lakes communities is green infrastructure.

GLC Green Infrastructure Champions Program


The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) is helping Great Lakes Communities to implement green infrastructure in their planning in order to repair the natural water cycle and therefore reduce flooding in cities. They have developed the Green Infrastructure Champions program, which coordinates a peer-to-peer mentorship program so that mid-size municipalities can work together. Mini-grants are available to those in the mentorship program. The Green Infrastructure Champions program also runs workshops to share successful green infrastructure projects and discuss green infrastructure tools. The program began as a pilot project from 2016-2018, but will continue through September 2020.

For more information visit https://www.glc.org/work/champions


An example of a green roof in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The use of vegetation on the roof reduces runoff and results in more water retention in accordance with the natural water cycle. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

Living Shorelines


Shorelines are naturally dynamic environments. Sedimentary materials tend to erode slowly from upstream to downstream so that little change is observed over a human lifetime. Unfortunately, there are many types of human activity that increase the severity and speed of shoreline erosion. For example, motorized water vehicles can exponentially increase the eroding force on a shoreline by creating waves that are stronger than what would normally be produced there. Simply getting too close to fragile shorelines like bluffs will also accelerate erosion.

Shoreline erosion at Neys Provincial Park. Trees are toppled into the river and a fence deters human traffic from accelerating shoreline erosion where no trees exist and a bluff has formed. (Photo: Infosuperior.com)

The main defense used against shoreline erosion has often been the construction of engineered hard barriers like seawalls and bulkheads. Efforts to stop shoreline erosion through the use of these structures can often become counterproductive, as they interfere with natural erosion processes. The issue here is that shorelines are meant to be dynamic, and what is eroded from one place is transported to another. Artificially limiting erosion in one location can then reduce deposits downstream, thereby accelerating erosion elsewhere.


The Lasalle Park seawall in Buffalo, New York, is an example of an engineered hard barrier. It protects the Colonel F.G. Ward Pumping Station, the main source of drinking water for the city of Buffalo. (Photo: Andi Kornaki/USACE)

In some cases an engineered hard barrier is necessary, but where there is an option, living shorelines are often your best bet. They are cheaper and result in a much more longterm solution that also benefits wildlife by maintaining natural shoreline habitats.


A living shoreline built at the Thunder Bay Marina uses native plantlife to bioengineer a marsh that mitigates erosion from wave action in a protected bay. (Photo: Infosuperior.com)

These types of shorelines work with nature, rather than against it, to ensure steady but slow erosion rather than dangerous accelerated erosion. They involve the use of native vegetation to reinforce the soil and protect against wave action. Where wave action is stronger, a combination of hard structures and living shoreline can be used.

For more information on Living shorelines, visit these websites:

fisheries.noaa.gov

dnr.wi.gov

ecologyaction.ca

livingshorelinesacademy.org


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Lakehead Research – Cyanobacteria in Northwestern Ontario Lakes

Nathan Wilson
Nathan Wilson, PhD candidate at Lakehead University, collects a sample from Cloud Lake. He will be collecting samples from some more Northwestern Ontario lakes this summer as part of his field work for his PhD. (Photo credit: Infosuperior.com)

Nathan Wilson is a PhD candidate at Lakehead University. Infosuperior conducted the following interview with Nathan to learn more about his research on nutrients and cyanobacteria in Northwestern Ontario lakes before he gets started out in the field this Summer.

What is the main question that you are trying to answer with your PhD research?

The main question, at this point, I am looking to answer for my PhD would be, Have cyanobacteria (a known toxic producing phytoplankton) existed in Northwestern Ontario lakes historically? On lakes that currently have cyanobacteria have they increased since people have settled the shore? This is somewhat of a basic or simple question that has some very important information within it. Understanding if cyanobacteria have been in Northwestern Ontario’s oligotrophic lakes historically or not will provide an insight into how best to move forward with managing this possible future problem.

Little is currently known about the distribution and abundance of cyanobacteria in Northern Ontario lakes because they are assumed to be cold, clean, oligotrophic lakes buffered against problems such as phytoplankton blooms. I am looking to better understand what the phytoplankton community composition on lakes in this region is/was. By understanding what phytoplankton communities currently and previously existed on a lake it is possible to better manage a lake if it starts to change beyond what would be expected for that lake. An example would be for lakes where development, cottages, or mining, is being proposed. Having the predevelopment community composition allows us to monitor resulting disruptions in the phytoplankton community that may result. 

What made you interested in this question?

What sparked my interest in this topic, work from my Master’s. I was looking at a lake just south of Thunder Bay when we observed cyanobacteria blooms. The more I looked into this problem the more I realized how much this topic was an emerging issue and how little was known or understood outside the major lakes like Winnipeg, and Erie.  

The main focus of my research is to raise awareness regarding lakes and phytoplankton in Northwestern Ontario. 

What are phytoplankton and what types of phytoplankton do you expect to find in a Northwestern Ontario Lake?

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that live and grow in water. They contain chlorophyll and require sunlight to grow and live. You can think of them as the grasses of the water. They take in nutrients from the water and use photosynthesis to supply themselves and, just like plants on land, they are the base of the food chain. There are several kinds of phytoplankton – green algae, brown algae, golden algae, dinoflagellates, diatoms, cyanobacteria, and many more. Many phytoplankton can be found in both salt and freshwater systems. It is fairly likely that I will find a number of green algae, dinoflagellates, diatoms, and I expect to find at least a few cyanobacteria. 

Your research also looks at internal loading with relation to cyanobacteria. Can you explain this concept and how it relates to lakes in Northwestern Ontario?

Internal loading refers to the resuspension of biologically available phosphorus into the water at the bottom of a lake. Most phytoplankton is unable to access this very important nutrient. Unfortunately, cyanobacteria is able to regulate its buoyancy and therefore it is able to access this nutrient and outcompete other less harmful or problematic phytoplankton. Internal loading also poses a major issue when addressing the management of human-induced eutrophication because the cyanobacteria are not limited by reductions of external phosphorus inputs.

The initial plan to combat the major issues of anthropogenic eutrophication came from work done at the Experimental Lakes Area by Kenora, Ontario. The research there showed that increases in phosphorus in the lake water resulted in more phytoplankton and specifically more cyanobacteria blooms. The immediate management approach of lakes experiencing problems was to address the sources of phosphorus that were entering into the lake. Lake Erie is an example of this problem.

Strict regulations were put in place for water treatment and industrial water and the removal of phosphorus from that water before it was allowed back into the lake. This approach worked initially and there was a reduction in the size and distribution of cyanobacteria blooms on Lake Erie. However, as most know Erie is still experiencing problematic blooms. This is because of a number of additional factors that we can not account for as easily. One of which is the continued development of anoxic bottom water which is associated with internal loading and allows cyanobacteria to out-compete other phytoplankton and dominate the community composition. Therefore, despite the limiting of external phosphorus, cyanobacteria are able to proliferate and bloom due to internal loading of phosphorus. 

These factors are very important for Northern Ontario as currently, the accepted knowledge is that Northern Ontario lakes do not experience internal loading. If they do or have the potential to experience internal loading, this is very important for the management of lakes. It will help better understand the number of camps/cottages a lake can have on it without overloading, and if a lake is already overloaded, it will help better understand the best options to protect that lake from further human impacts (as we see in other parts of Canada and the world). 

I am hoping my research will be able to provide information that can be used to better understand internal loading specifically within Northern Ontario Lakes. I am hoping to do this through the examination of sediment cores and monitoring current lake conditions and phytoplankton communities. Lakes in Northwestern Ontario are usually thought to be Oligotrophic (low nutrients, clean, cold water lakes). 

Fieldwork for your research begins this summer, what questions will you be focusing on? What type of data do you need to collect and how will it be collected?

For this season I am focused on collecting data that provides a baseline of the current conditions for the lakes I have selected. To do this I will be focusing on collecting data that tells me about the current state of the lakes. Things like temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles, secchi depth, some basic water chemistry like nutrient composition, and most importantly phytoplankton samples. I will also be taking sediment cores from the bottom of the lakes to gain data about how the lake has changed in the last few decades.

Most of this data is relatively simple to collect using a boat to get on the water so I can measure the temperature, dissolved oxygen and secchi depth. Collection of water samples for both chemical analysis and phytoplankton requires sample bottles to and a preservative to keep the phytoplankton from degrading or losing small identification features like their flagella. The sediment samples are a bit more tricky. Using a long rod with a tube on the end I will push the tube into the sediment in the deepest part of the lake. A one-way valve on the top of the apparatus causes a seal with the sediment in the tube, this has to be pulled out. Trying to do this from a boat can be rather difficult. Usually, cores are taken during the winter when the lake is frozen and you can stand on the ice for more leverage. The analysis of all this data is more difficult.

Infosuperior is grateful to Nathan Wilson for sharing some more information about his research. Nathan Wilson studies various aspects of lakes and lake management through the environmental biotechnology program at Lakehead University, working with Dr Carney Matheson and Dr Rob Stewart. His focus is on examining lakes within Northwestern Ontario to better understand nutrients and cyanobacteria.


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Lake Superior Water Levels Set New Record

In a Nutshell:

  • lake levels are better than 30 cm/ 1 ft. higher than this time last year
  • 8 cm/ 3.14 in. above the previous record set in 1986
  • record levels are expected to be sustained through July, August and September.


Lake Superior water levels are at a new record high. At the beginning of June, Lake Superior was 8 cm/3.14 in. above the previous record, set in 1986. Early June levels were 41 cm/16.14 in. above the long-term average between the years 1918 and 2018. New data for all of June, 2019 was not available at time of writing this article, but in May, 2019 the lake rose 13 cm/5.11 in. The lake normally rises 10 cm/3.9 in. each May.

At 1:20 P.M. on June 20th, Lake Superior’s water level stood at 183.91 m/603.40 ft., as measured at Duluth, Minnesota by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One year earlier the average water level for June, 2018 was 183.56 m/602.23 ft. This represents a year-to-year water level rise of 35 cm/13.77 in.

Precipitation was near average in the Lake Superior watershed in May but despite this, water supply to the basin was above average from high winter precipitation and runoff.


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Data.

Record High Levels All Summer


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts Lake Superior water levels will continue to rise over the next three months, reaching a peak in August. Record high levels are expected for July, August and September.

How Water Levels are Measured


Several water level gauges around Lake Superior are used to determine water levels. The gauges are maintained by the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S, and by the Canadian Hydrographic Service in Canada.

Water levels are measured in relation to elevation reference points, or benchmarks, around the Great Lakes. Based on these benchmarks, a single level surface is adopted as “chart datum” for a given lake, including Superior. In more technical terms, chart datum is referred to as “International Great Lakes Datum.” These elevation points are selected so that the water level for each lake will seldom fall below them. Only rarely will there be less depth available than what is portrayed on a nautical chart, or map.

Regulating Lake Superior Outflow


The International Lake Superior Board of Control is responsible for regulating the outflow of Lake Superior and managing the control works on the St. Marys River. The board points out that:

The ability to regulate the outflow from Lake Superior does not mean that full control of lake levels is possible. This is because the major factors affecting the water supply to the Great Lakes—over-lake precipitation, evaporation, and runoff—cannot be controlled; nor can they be accurately predicted in the long term. (ijc.org)

Data for this article was accessed from the following sources:

Links:

Telephone Numbers for Lake Superior water levels/daily fluctuations at Canadian Guages:

  • Thunder Bay – (807) 344-3141
  • Rossport – (807) 824-2250
  • Michipicoten – (705) 856-0077
  • Gros Cap – (705) 779-2052.

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Invasive Species – The Battle Against Asian Carp Continues

Aerial view of Brandon Road Lock and Dam, Joliet, Ill., April 22, 2014. This dam acts as a choke point between Asian carp and the Great Lakes where the implementation of Asian carp deterrents has been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Photo: U.S. Army Photo by Dave Wethington/Released. CC BY 2.0)

The fight to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes is kicking into high gear. On April 29th, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee released the 2019 Asian Carp Action Plan, which involves efforts to find effective Asian carp deterrents. Plus this May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved plans to implement defensive structures in the the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, which acts as a choking point between the Illinois River and a variety of tributaries that lead into Lake Michigan.


Crews search for invasive Asian carp near Chicago , Aug. 2, 2011, following several recent discoveries of their genetic material in Lake Calumet. Teams swept the lake with half-mile-long nets. Six boats from government agencies and four commercial fishing vessels took part the search. No Asian carp were found. (Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Jessica Vandrick)

The U.S. and Canada have been working together for years to avoid the damage that this invasive species would cause to native species in the Great Lakes. Both sides participate in frequent monitoring and prevention techniques like electrofishing and eDNA (environmental DNA) collection. Asian carp pose a serious threat to the health and ecology of native plant and fish species in the Great Lakes.


Electrofishing for the asian carp invasive species. (Photo: Public Domain by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Asian carp is actually a blanket term for several related species of fish. The Asian carp that have invaded North American tributaries include four specific species of the cyprinid family: Bighead carp, Black carp, Grass carp and Silver carp. Asian Carp were first introduced in North America in the 1970s to manage algae in aquaculture ponds and are believed to have escaped into natural waterways during flooding events shortly after. They traveled northward in the Mississippi River towards the Great Lakes and were found to have already outcompeted native fish in the Illinois River area at 9 to 1 by 1990.


Asian carp in the United States and Canada refers to four species of carp. [Top] Black carp and Grass carp are invasive and the new 2019 Asian Carp Action Plan will look at improving our knowledge about these less pervasive species. [Bottom] The Silver Carp above the Bighead Carp can be hard to distinguish. Both are referred to as bigheaded carp and have presented the greatest threat to the Great Lakes. (Photo: Retrieved from Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee’s photostream on Flikr. [Top] Photos by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS. CC BY 2.0)

These fish are bottom feeders who eat huge amounts of algae and reduce the availability of food to native species. Silver Carp and Bighead Carp are the most pervasive. Silver carp are also sensitive to the vibration of motors and will jump out of the water, causing damage and injury to boaters and those using waterways recreationally.

You can join the fight against asian carp by reporting their presence. Get to know the distinguishing features of each species and get in touch:

  • Call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or report it online at eddmaps.org/Ontario.

To learn even more about Asian carp visit the following websites:


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Red Rock Wastewater Treatment Plant Construction Underway

Construction of a new wastewater treatment plant for the Town of Red Rock began on May 1st. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

Former Nipigon Bay Remedial Action Plan chair Dave Nuttal said it. More recently, former Red Rock Indian Band Chief Ed Wawia said the same thing ­­— construction of an upgraded municipal wastewater treatment plant, for the Town of Red Rock, was a “must do” proposition. The two agreed on one other point as well; construction of the new plant would directly benefit water quality in Lake Superior’s Nipigon Bay.

As for the community where the new plant will be built, Mayor Gary Nelson says, “For the Township of Red Rock, this investment will ensure our community complies with current provincial water quality regulations and new federal rules that come into effect in 2030. A new reliable wastewater system will ensure the township can accommodate future growth and draw more businesses to the area.”


The Town of Red Rock is located on Nipigon Bay, the most northerly portion of Lake Superior. (Map courtesy google.com)

Both Ontario and Canada Contributing Funds


Construction of the new plant started on May 1st. Aegus Construction of Thunder Bay is the contractor.

The Government of Ontario is contributing more than $17 million, or two-thirds of the total project cost, while the Government of Canada is contributing over $8.5 million under the New Building Canada Fund – National and Regional Projects.


The municipality of Nipigon, located on the largest river flowing into the Great Lakes, the Nipigon, completed a wastewater treatment plant upgrade in 2009. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

Like Thunder Bay, Jackfish Bay, and Peninsula Harbour in Canada, as well as Duluth-Superior Harbour in Minnesota/Wisconsin and Torch Lake in Michigan, Nipigon Bay is one of several Great Lakes environmental “Areas of Concern” (AOCs). These are specific locations where Remedial Action Plans, or cleanup plans, are making substantial progress to address environmental issues like pollution, degraded water quality and aquatic habitat.


Significant progress has been made to improve water quality in Nipigon Bay. Construction of a new wastewater treatment plant for the Town of Nipigon was completed in 2009. In this June 15, 2009 Infosuperior file photo, taken as funding was announced for Nipigon’s plant, Town of Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey is joined by Nipigon Bay RAP Public Advisory Committee Chair Dave Crawford, Public Advisory Committee member Betty Brill and Provincial Member of Parliament Michael Gravelle. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

Nipigon Bay is one of the four AOCs covered by the North Shore of Lake Superior Remedial Action Plans (RAP). Nipigon Bay was designated as an Area of Concern in 1987 primarily as a result of impacts related to:

  • upstream hydroelectric dams
  • the accumulation of wood fibre, bark, and other organic matter from historic log drives
  • effluent inputs from municipal and industrial sources.

You can find information about RAP progress in Nipigon Bay by visiting http://rap.infosuperior.com/nipigon-bay/.


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July 18th Presentation: Discovering the Erebus and Terror

Presented by: Parks Canada and the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

Time: 7 PM on Thursday, July 18th

Location: Nipigon Community Centre Multi-Purpose Room, 138 Wadsworth St., Nipigon, Ontario,

Cost: Open to the public and free of charge

Have you ever been fascinated by the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror shipwrecks of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition? On July 18th, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the remarkable story of these wrecks – with a member of Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team!

There are countless submerged cultural resources across the country. Join Alexandre Poudret-Barré as we explore the story behind the disappearance – and the discovery – of the renowned HMS Erebus and HMS Terror wrecks.

Led by explorer Sir John Franklin, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror departed England in 1845 and traveled through what is now Canada’s Arctic in search of a Northwest Passage. The ships and crew vanished – and the mystery behind their disappearance captured the public’s imagination for over a century.

Did you know that Lake Superior is also home to important underwater resources? We’ll explore the ongoing work of Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology team as they document archaeological sites that lie in Lake Superior’s frigid waters.

Hope to see you there!

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