Environmental News- Great Lakes Compact

There’s a new agreement that says the Great Lakes water has to stay in the Great Lakes. It’s been approved now by all eight of the states and the two Canadian provinces that border the Lakes.

The Great Lakes region was worried that drier parts of the country and the world might be eyeing the largest supply of freshwater on Earth.

Ten years ago, a Canadian company got permission from Ontario to send millions of gallons of water to Asia via tankers. Fierce opposition from around the Great Lakes region put an end to that project, but regions neighboring the Great Lakes basin still see them as a possible cure for their water shortages.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm says the Great Lakes compact offers an answer to anyone outside the region who wants to get their hands on that water.

“Can’t touch this. That’s what we say. They need to look at their own way of preserving and managing their resources.”

When Granholm signed new laws in a ceremony on the Lake Michigan shoreline Michigan became the last of the eight Great Lakes states to formally join the compact.

The compact was put together by leaders of the US states and two Canadian provinces that border the lakes. Granholm says, once it’s adopted by Congress and signed by the president, it will give the Great Lakes states new authority to protect their water.

“This allows me as governor to veto any large diversion of water, so we can put a stop to it ourselves. It really allows us the autonomy to protect our Great Lakes overall.”

It took 10 years for the Great Lakes states to get the compact through their legislatures and signed by their governors. Members of Congress from the region are hoping it won’t take quite so long to get it to the president’s desk.

Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel is expected to lead the effort to get the compact through the US House. He says congressional hearings will begin this year and the compact should be approved in time for it to be sent to the new president in early 2009. Emanuel says he’s not expecting any problems.

“Because people understand and know, this is our Yellowstone Park, this is our Grand Canyon. This is a national treasure. There’s been a lot of work and years of effort to get this done. The good news is a lot of the chairmen of the committees that are relevant are from the Midwest, and know how important the Great Lakes are and will act with due speed in getting it done.”

Both the Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barak Obama have said they would sign the compact.

Environmental groups are among those backing the compact. But many of them say it still comes up short because it does not stop bottled water from leaving the Great Lakes region.

Cyndi Roper is with Clean Water Action.

“Water is water. You can’t fill a tanker with water and take it out of the Great Lakes, but you can fill that same tanker with bottles of water and ship them to other parts of the country and other parts of the world, and we think as we move forward, that’s a very dangerous precedent to set.”

She says that’s because many millions of gallons can still trickle out of the lakes – even if it’s 12 ounces at a time.

Story courtesey of The Environment Report

from the University of Michigan and Michigan Public Radio

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About Michigan Nature Association

The Michigan Nature Association is a non-profit organization that has been dedicated to preserving Michigan’s natural heritage since 1952. MNA protects more than 10,000 acres of land in over 170 nature sanctuaries throughout the state of Michigan, from the tip of Keweenaw in the Upper Peninsula to the Indiana/Ohio border.