International Joint Commission Water Quality Activities Need Greater U.S. Government Support and Involvement

CED-82-97: Published: Jun 23, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1982.

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GAO conducted a review to determine whether the United States is meeting the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements with Canada. The International Joint Commission (IJC) is responsible for advising the U.S. and Canadian Governments on Great Lakes and other boundary waters pollution control matters.

The U.S. Government has not adequately supported, nor has it been sufficiently involved in, the work of IJC. Consequently, IJC has had difficulty meeting its water quality responsibilities. To help IJC more effectively carry out its advisory role, the United States needs to: (1) formally respond to IJC report recommendations and requests for information on U.S. pollution control activities; (2) provide continuity of U.S.-IJC leadership when active leadership on water quality matters is of high importance; and (3) involve key federal agencies with water quality agreement responsibilities on IJC advisory boards. IJC officials maintain that the lack of formal U.S. responses to its reports and recommendations has hampered its effectiveness in advising the governments. Key U.S. Government and IJC officials believe that formal responses to IJC would result in many benefits, including improved IJC accountability to the U.S. and Canadian Governments. GAO concluded that a formal system of feedback to IJC on its reports would be efficient and useful.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should, in conjunction with the U.S. IJC Commissioners, the U.S. Chairman of the Water Quality Board, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, establish a formal mechanism to acquire input for the Board from all U.S. federal and state agencies involved in water quality activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should consult with the Secretary of Agriculture and provide, in an expeditious manner, a U.S. nominee for the Water Quality Board position.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should develop and formally transmit to the President of the United States a policy and procedures for establishing staggered terms for U.S. IJC Commissioners.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should designate a high level official within the Department to respond to any formal IJC recommendations and requests for information and to develop and implement a system to follow up on IJC reports and recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should develop and send to the President for transmittal to the U.S. IJC Commissioners a formal request for the Commissioners to: (1) develop clear and achievable objectives for the U.S. sections of IJC advisory boards; (2) require the U.S. sections of the boards to prepare activity plans and review such plans regularly to monitor the progress being made by the boards and to ensure that board resources are used effectively; and (3) develop and implement a long-term management plan or strategy for the U.S. section of IJC which, at a minimum, would provide for periodic meetings with the advisory boards and the regional office.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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