Working Together on Lake Superior's Areas of Concern
A Summary of the November 7th/08 Workshop held by
The Lake Superior Binational Forum and Great Lakes United
The Lake Superior Binational Forum held one of its regular meetings on November 7th and 8th at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. The Forum is the citizen stakeholder group for the Lake Superior Binational Program. It consists of 24 Canadian and American volunteers from various sectors including small business, local elected officials, environmental organizations, industry, Native American and First Nations tribes, academia, recreation and anglers, and the faith community.
In addition to meetings of its Chemical, Ecosystems, Developing Sustainability and Outreach Committees the Forum also held an afternoon session on Nov. 7th entitled, "Working Together on Lake Superior's Areas of Concern." , The session was hosted in partnership with Great Lakes United and was funded by the Trillium Foundation, Environment Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Environment. The meeting was very well attended and brought together a diverse mix of residents from communities adjacent to Lake Superior AOCs. Participants attended from Thunder Bay, Nipigon, Schreiber, Terrace Bay and Marathon and included residents, members of former Public Advisory Committees, mayors, town councillors, town CAOs, representatives of industries like Marathon Pulp Inc. and Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. and students and academics from Lakehead University. On a more detailed level, the mayor and almost the entire town council from Nipigon participated as well as the town CAO. The mayor of Red Rock was also in attendance.
The session began with an overview of the secondary treatment plant recently constructed and brought online in Thunder Bay. This was followed by information from EcoJustice about keeping costs of infrastructure low. The central focus of the meeting was the session on Lake Superior AOCs. An overview entitled, "Contaminated Sediment Assessment and Management in Lake Superior" was given by Michelle McChristie of the Ontario Ministry of Environment and this was followed by an overview of all the Canadian Lake Superior AOCs (Thunder Bay, Nipigon Bay, Jackfish Bay and Peninsula Harbour) by Kate Taillon of Environment Canada. These presentations were followed with AOC overviews, from the perspective of the public, by chairs or members of former Public Advisory Committees for each AOC.
The core of the AOC session was the "roundtable" discussion period moderated by John Jackson of Great Lakes United. Both the presentations by the former Public Advisory Committee members and also comments and questions from the floor, centered on the fact that none of these Areas of Concern has been delisted. Statements were also made about progress in the form of habitat projects, river management plans (for Nipigon) and even sediment remediation projects. Still though, the overriding concern, often stated in quite emotional terms, was that after a very long period (close to 20 years) when community residents felt little or no community engagement had occurred, "the job has not been finished." Several people mentioned that they hoped this meeting would be the start of actions to engage the various communities adjacent to Lake Superior AOCs and to "get the job done."