Great Lakes States Rally for a Champion Candidate

Republican and Democratic state legislators from New York, Illinois, and Minnesota on Jan. 31 called on presidential candidates to commit to funding the restoration of the Great Lakes and to outlawing water diversions. These three states represent more than a quarter of the delegates (457 of 1,688 delegates) at stake on Super Tuesday.

State legislators from these states sent a letter to the leading presidential candidates urging them to support the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and to implement the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.

"For state legislators who are on the front lines in the battle to restore and protect the lakes, we have one question for each presidential candidate: 'Will you use your leadership as president to pass Great Lakes restoration legislation and to outlaw water diversions?'" asked Sen. Patty Birkholz (R-Mich.).

The Great Lakes Compact would ban diversions and establish fair and consistent rules for Great Lakes water use that everyone must follow. State legislatures across the region are in the process of approving the Great Lakes Compact, which will also require U.S. congressional approval.

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy outlines an action plan of manageable solutions to protect and restore the Great Lakes from threats like sewage overflows and invasive species. State legislators have been active in working to implement priority recommendations of the strategy, with Michigan passing a law to combat the threat of invasive species from oceangoing ships and several other states pursuing similar initiatives.

"From Niagara Falls to the Thousand Islands, the Great Lakes are essential to the economic and cultural identity of millions of New Yorkers, who expect the next president to not abandon the lakes in this time of need," said Sen. George Maziarz (R-N.Y.). "Protecting and restoring the Great Lakes is about more than protecting the environment. It is also about stimulating our economy and safeguarding a way of life."

A Brookings Institution study found implementing the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy would lead to at least $80 billion in regional economic benefit.

The initiative by state legislators follows similar challenges put forward by the region's governors, mayors, and members of the U.S. Congress, who have all brought attention to the problems facing the Great Lakes and the need for presidential candidates to outline their commitments.

"As lake levels drop and new invasive species enter the lakes, Minnesota voters want to hear what presidential candidates have to say about protecting and restoring the Great Lakes," said Sen. Ann Rest (D-Minn.). "They could start by supporting the Great Lakes Compact and signing the candidate pledge being circulated by members of Congress."

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