Policy & Governance

Topic Overview

The Great Lakes comprise the largest freshwater system on Earth, containing nearly 20% of the world’s available freshwater supply. Communities along the Great Lakes rely on these waters for consumption, energy, trade and transportation, recreation, economic development, and tourism. The Great Lakes are governed by two countries, eight states, two provinces, Indian tribes, agencies, and local governments. The vast uses of the Great Lakes combined with the many governing entities make for a complex system of governance. This section provides news and initiatives related to policy in the Great Lakes, with a focus on those policies affecting the Pennsylvania Lake Erie region.

News and Initiatives

  • Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) is a commitment between the United States and Canada to restore and protect the waters of the Great Lakes. The Agreement provides a framework for identifying binational priorities and implementing actions that improve water quality. EPA coordinates U.S. activities that fulfill the Agreement. The Great Lakes Executive Committee (GLEC) is an oversight committee of the GLWQA composed of representatives of Canadian and U.S. federal, state, provincial, and tribal agencies who are accountable for delivering major programs and activities that respond to the terms of the GLWQA.

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office The United States Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) brings together Federal, state, tribal, local, and industry partners in an integrated, ecosystem approach to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. GLNPO

  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), authorized through Fiscal Year 2021 for $300 million per year, is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. GLRI launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. A task force of 11 federal agencies developed the GLRI Action Plan II, which summarizes the actions that federal agencies plan to implement during Fiscal Years 2015-19 using GLRI funding. These actions will build on restoration and protection work carried out under the first GLRI Action Plan, with a major focus on:
    • cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern;
    • preventing and controlling invasive species;
    • reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful/nuisance algal blooms; and
    • restoring habitat to protect native species.

  • Boundary Waters Treaty and International Joint Commission Recognizing the importance and mutual interest in the Great Lakes and other boundary waters, the United States and Canada signed the Boundary Waters Treaty in 1909. The treaty gave both countries equal rights to use the waterways that flow along the international border and provided that the boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary not be polluted on either side to the point of injuring human health or the property of the other country. The treaty also established the International Joint Commission (IJC) as a permanent binational agency organized to help resolve and prevent disputes concerning all of the waters along the U.S.-Canada border.

  • Great Lakes Commission The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) is a binational public agency dedicated to the use, management and protection of the water, land and other natural resources of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system. In partnership with the eight Great Lakes states and provinces of Ontario and Québec, the Commission applies sustainable development principles in addressing issues of resource management, environmental protection, transportation and sustainable development. The Commission provides accurate and objective information on public policy issues; an effective forum for developing and coordinating public policy; and a unified, system wide voice to advocate member interests.