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September 23, 2008

Great Lakes Compact Passes the House of Representatives

The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes

Today in a vote in the House of Representatives the Great Lakes Compact passed with 390 for and 25 against. The bill now moves to President Bush’s desk for his signature, with his promise to sign into law before he leaves office.

Outsiders won’t be able to siphon off large amounts of water from the Great Lakes under a bill that gained final approval in the House Tuesday.

Tuesday’s vote signifies “the most important congressional action for protecting Great Lakes fresh water since the Clean Water Act of 1972,” said Noah Hall, a law professor at Wayne State University who helped draft the compact language while working as an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation.

Although the compact was designed to prohibit large-scale diversions of water outside the region, it does allow water to be exported if it leaves in containers that are 5.7 gallons or less. The provision will allow the region’s bottled water industry to continue to thrive, but Stupak worries it could inadvertently open the door to large-scale water grabs.

In addition to restricting water diversion from the lakes, the compact will establish scientific standards for guiding decisions about water supplies within the Great Lakes basin and create a council made up of the eight Great Lakes states’ governors to review water management programs.

“The protection of shared natural resources requires shared responsibility across state lines and across various levels of the public and private sectors,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) said in a statement.

The Compact includes the following points:

· Economic development will be fostered through sustainable use and responsible management of Basin waters.

In general, there will be a ban on new diversions of water from the Basin but limited exceptions could be allowed in communities near the Basin when rigorous standards are met.

· Communities that apply for an exception will have a clear, predictable decision making process; standards to be met; and, opportunities to appeal decisions.  These processes and standards do not exist under current law.

· The States will use a consistent standard to review proposed uses of Basin water.  The States will have flexibility regarding their water management programs and how to apply this standard.

· Regional goals and objectives for water conservation and efficiency will be developed, and they will be reviewed every five years.  Each State will develop and implement a water conservation and efficiency program that may be voluntary or mandatory.

· There is a strong commitment to continued public involvement in the implementation of the Compact.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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