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Buffalo hosts Great Lakes meeting Tuesday

The people who shape Great Lakes policy are in Buffalo Tuesday and they want to hear from you.

Do you fish Lake Ontario? Swim at Woodlawn Beach State Park? Boat out of the Small Boat Harbor, Sturgeon Point or Barcelona?

Now's your chance to speak up.

Restoring the Great Lakes and tackling the environmental challenges facing them will be discussed at a public meeting held by the International Joint Commission at the WNED-TV studio at 140 Lower Terrace in downtown Buffalo.

President Trump's budget plan that would drastically cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Program is sure to come up.

Great Lakes restoration program reportedly facing drastic funding cut

It's one of six meetings to take place across the Great Lakes region this month. Commissioners want to hear from residents about its draft report documenting the last three years of Great Lakes progress and its report card of the Canadian and United States governments under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The cover of the draft report. (International Joint Commission)

Comments will become part of the commission's final progress report, which is expected to be submitted to the U.S. and Canadian governments later this year.

There's been progress implementing some aspects of the water quality agreement, especially in the areas of instituting policies for meeting deadlines, addressing contamination in designated "areas of concern," and preventing new aquatic invasive species. But commissioners are critical of the governments in some areas.

Lake Erie is one of them.

"The water quality of western and central Lake Erie is unsatisfactory and unacceptable," the IJC's assessment of key findings reported. "New mandatory protections should supplement voluntary initiatives to reduce phosphorous loadings."

The commission also said more focus needs to be paid by the two countries on:

  • Drinking water standards in the Great Lakes.
  • Identifying and addressing chemicals of concern.
  • Ensuring recreation opportunities like swimming and fishing are safe and available.

The public meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

The meeting will be preceded by an afternoon round-table discussion.

That three-hour discussion, which will be moderated by WNED/WBFO's Great Lakes Today Editor Dave Rosenthal, is also open to the public. It's scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.

IJC officials will begin the event with a presentation entitled "You are the Voice of the Great Lakes."

It will then include presentations on a range of environmental topics by several area Great Lakes experts.

Representatives from Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper, the University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State's Great Lakes Center, the Western New York Land Conservancy and other organizations will present on topics including emerging contaminants, restoration and habitat needs, recreation, wetland significance and community collaboration in restoring area waters.

Both sessions will be streamed live by WNED/WBFO.

The commission already hosted Great Lakes public meetings this month in Detroit and Toledo as well as Sault Ste. Marie and Sarnia, Ont.

Commissioners got an earful last week by a "feisty" crowd in Toledo, according a report by the Toledo Blade.

About 170 people "overflowed" out of a lake-side university auditorium last Thursday in the western Ohio city where a toxic algae bloom shut down drinking water to a half-million people in 2014.

Many expressed frustration with recent reports of drastic federal cuts to Great Lakes programs and with rules governing phosphorus loading remain too lax to fix the annual occurrences of hazardous algal blooms in western Lake Erie, the Blade reported.

The sixth and final meeting by the commission will be Wednesday in St. Catharines.

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