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Report: States Need to Shore Up Great Lakes Water Compact

July 13, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Progress is being made in implementing the Great Lakes Compact, but a new report issued Tuesday says most states still need to take "significant steps" to meet the goals of the multi-state water-conservation agreement.

No state has been able to accomplish all the goals set forth in the agreement even though it is legally binding, according to the report, issued by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as the compact reached the halfway point of its five-year life. The report cites disparities in laws and policies from state to state.

Oversight by the compact council could be stronger, says Marc Smith, NWF senior policy manager.

"You basically have two to three staff who are just attorneys. So, they are woefully understaffed, woefully under budget, and they really lack the teeth to really move the states forward to fully implementing the compact."

The report notes some bright spots, however. Michigan is highlighted for good progress in most categories and for its online screening test for water withdrawals, which has won several national awards. It's unfortunate, Smith says, that none of the eight states met two previous deadlines for water conservation requirements. The compact requires that all the states be in compliance by December 2013.

The Ohio Legislature has created another setback for the compact. Lawmakers passed a bill sponsored by Chamber of Commerce and industry groups which allows much higher water withdrawal levels before a permit is required, a practice which contradicts the compact. The bill awaits Gov. John Kasich's signature. Ohio Environmental Council spokeswoman Kristy Meyer lists the reasons the bill spells potential disaster for Lake Erie and its watershed.

"Under the bill, a water user would only have to seek a state permit when a factory, mining operation or other water user tapped more than 5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie, 2 million gallons from a river or groundwater source, or 300,000 gallons a day, average, from a designated high-quality stream that is less than 100 square miles."

The full report, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Implementation of the Great Lakes Compact," is online at nwf.org/greatlakes.

Amy Miller/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MI