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Critics: State Assembly Plan Would “Water Down” Great Lakes Agreement

February 18, 2008

Madison, WI – A plan to protect Great Lakes water from diversion to other parts of the country could "run dry." Eight states are involved in the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement to prevent water from being diverted from the Lakes. Now, State Assembly members have joined Ohio State Senate leaders in proposing changes to the compact, saying they want to make it easier for local communities outside the Lakes' basin to take water from the Lakes.

Molly Flanagan, with the National Wildlife Federation, says it may sound like a small change, but it could do major damage.

"This is a short-sighted move that places the special interests of a few over the water security needs of millions of citizens across the Great Lakes, and the economic vitality of the region. I think that these two legislative bodies are really operating contrary to the interest of their states, and also citizens across the Great Lakes region."

And Laurie Longtine, with the Waukesha County Environmental Action League, notes that the longer it takes to sort out the changes, the more likely Great Lakes' water will end up in other parts of the country, jeopardizing water levels that already are low.

"We have seen story after story of areas throughout the United States that have their eyes on Great Lakes' water, such as arid Southwestern states, as more and more places realize they're running out of groundwater."

The governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have agreed to the compact as it stands, and are are unlikely to support the changes, according to Flanagan. However, the proposals could present delays in ratification of the compact.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WI