Revised Great Lakes Draft Agreements Released for Comment

The governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the Premiers of Ontario and Québec have released revised draft agreements that when adopted would strengthen the management and protection of the Great Lakes.

The revised draft agreements, called the Annex 2001 Implementing Agreements, include a ban on diversions of water with limited exceptions, and a requirement for the states and provinces to conduct joint review of water withdrawal proposals that result in large scale, consumptive uses or proposed exceptions to the ban on diversions.

"These Lakes are the primary reason that our region, on both sides of the border, has become such a popular place to raise a family, vacation and make a living," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. "The protection of the Lakes for use by future generations is extremely important to the people living here today, and their voices have been heard loud and clear."

"The Great Lakes are our most precious natural resource, and it is critical that we act responsibly to protect them," Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm said. "I am encouraged that these revised documents reflect a stronger stand against diverting water out of the Great Lakes and places decision-making on in-basin water use clearly in the hands of the individual states and provinces."

Last summer, more than 10,000 public comments were received concerning the first draft of the agreements, and the changes made to the revised draft agreements reflect many of the suggestions and concerns raised by the public, according to the council.

The revised draft agreements are not final and do not yet represent consensus. At the end of the 60-day public comment and review period, the governors' and premiers' staffs will review the comments and attempt to reach consensus on the agreements. If such consensus is reached, the finalized agreements will be submitted to the governors and premiers for their review and consideration later this year. The final documents, if approved by all governors and premiers, will then provide a framework for each state and province to pass laws that will protect the Great Lakes Basin. In the United States, Congress will be asked to consent to any compact among the states. No federal legislation is required in Canada.

The revised draft agreements are now available for public review and comment at http://www.cglg.org.

Some of the key improvements in these revised draft agreements include:

  • A ban on diversions of water with limited exceptions.
  • Each of the eight Great Lakes states and the provinces of Ontario and Québec would implement common decision-making standards governing new or increased water use proposals.
  • More of the decision making process for in-basin water uses will take place at the state and provincial level rather than at the regional level.
  • A procedure for regional review of the implementation of the agreements and resolution of disputes by the states and provinces.
  • Strengthened commitments to reduce demand for water and improve efficient use of water through requiring conservation of current and future water users.

Written comments can be sent by mail to David Naftzger, executive director, Council of Great Lakes Governors, 35 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 1850, Chicago, IL 60601.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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