About the Michigan Areas of Concern Program
The Great Lakes form a portion of the international boundary between the United States and Canada, and both countries have jurisdiction over their protection and restoration. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada was developed in 1972 and established objectives and criteria for the protection, restoration and enhancement of water quality in the Great Lakes system. A revised GLWQA was signed in 1978, and another in 2012, to better identify, manage, and prevent current and emerging environmental issues from affecting the waters of the Great Lakes, while upholding and modernizing commitments made in previous Agreements.
The 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement adopted general and specific objectives and outlined programs and practices necessary to reduce pollutant discharges to the Great Lakes system. Under Annex 2 of the 1987 Protocol Amending the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the United States and Canadian governments identified 43 areas on the Great Lakes that had serious water quality problems known to cause beneficial use impairment of the shared aquatic resources. These areas have been formally designated by the two governments as Areas of Concern. Michigan has 14 Areas of Concern.
The Guidance for Delisting Michigan's Areas of Concern (Guidance) identifies the criteria used to determine when a Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) is restored. The Department of Environmental Quality, working with local Public Advisory Councils (PACs) use this Guidance to remove BUIs which will lead to Area of Concern (AOC) delisting. The Guidance provides statewide criteria for twelve of fourteen potential BUIs. Local PAC's could either accept the statewide criteria or develop local BUI removal targets. Locally developed targets, at a minimum, needed to be functionally equivalent to or exceed the criteria in the Guidance. The loss of fish and wildlife habitat and the degradation of fish and wildlife populations BUIs tend to be highly site-specific. Because statewide criteria for these BUIs were not appropriate, the Guidance provided a criteria setting process developed in partnership with agency resource managers, locals, and PAC members which result in AOC-specific local restoration goals needed to remove these BUIs.
The 2010 Strategy for Delisting Michigan's Areas of Concern (Strategy) identifies actions needed to remove Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) and delist AOCs, establishes Area of Concern Program priorities, and sets resource allocations in the AOC Program. The strategy addresses all identified BUIs within each AOC. This Strategy is a companion document to the Guidance. The AOC BUIs and restoration actions needed are compiled in a table in Appendix A of the Strategy which will be updated by the state on a regular basis.