Great Lakes Pact Needs a Few More State Endorsements

The Alliance for the Great Lakes applauds Indiana for endorsing the Great Lakes Compact, urging that the governor sign it into law promptly and that those states that have yet to pass the legislation move quickly toward adoption.

Following a 91-8 vote in the House and an earlier unanimous vote in the Senate, Indiana and New York are now poised to become the third and fourth states in the region to adopt the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.

The compact is headed to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer after passing that state's Assembly. Minnesota and Illinois were the first of the eight Great Lakes states to adopt the compact and the critical protections it provides.

"States all across the Great Lakes are keeping a watchful eye on each other's legislatures," said Sharon Cook, water conservation program director for the Alliance. "The compact's passage by the Indiana General Assembly should prompt other states to adopt the compact now."

Failure to approve the compact, which sets consistent water protections in each Great Lakes state, before the current legislative sessions close at the end of March would delay action until lawmakers return in January 2009.

Endorsed by the region's eight state governors and two Canadian premiers in 2005, the compact must pass in each Great Lakes state before heading to the U.S. Congress for ratification. Legislatures in the remaining states are in varying stages of acting on compact, with bills pending in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin's legislation is still being drafted, a noticeable lag in a state where recent polling shows 80 percent of residents support the compact's passage.

Adopting the compact, as well as companion laws in the provinces of Ontario and Québec, would provide a first-of-its-kind model for a consensus-based, basin-wide approach to decisions about how much and how far away Great Lakes water can be used.

Home to 20 percent of the surface freshwater on the planet, the Great Lakes are pressured. Lake Superior hit a record low in September and Lakes Huron and Michigan are flirting with record lows this year, continuing a decade-long descent spurred by factors linked to drought, global warming, and inadequate water conservation policy.

Armed with scientific and economic studies underscoring the Lakes' critical importance to the region's ecological and economic health, the Alliance is allied with conservation, environmental, boating, economic development and community groups to ensure the compact's adoption by all the states.

"The compact will set consistent, reasonable standards that all states within the basin must use," Cook said. "With predicted drops in congressional representation, locking water protections in now is the best defense against unsustainable use of the Great Lakes."

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