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Great Lakes Compact Closing in on Congress

July 1, 2008

Ann Arbor, MI – An effort to protect Great Lakes waters is one vote away from heading to Congress. Michigan has now joined Minnesota and five other states in ratifying an agreement to ban water diversions. Andy Buchsbaum with the National Wildlife Federation says it's designed to protect a national resource and treasure.

"The compact makes sure that Great Lakes water isn't diverted out of the country or out of the region. It also makes sure that we use water wisely here in the basin."

With the latest approval, Pennsylvania is the only state left to okay the water management agreement before it can be sent to Congress. Two Canadian provinces are also compact members.

Buchsbaum says the compact, plus federal ratification, would offer the Great Lakes states strong protection for their common resources.

"The rest of the world is getting drier and drier. It's fine to provide water for humanitarian purposes, but we can't lose control of Great Lakes water, or the Great Lakes could be sucked dry, or at least reduced. For that reason, we need a new set of protections."

He says it's likely Congress will ratify the compact, because of the influence of congress members representing the compact states.

Buchsbaum says the compact is of particular importance to Minnesota.

"Minnesota was the first state to ratify the compact. Minnesota has some of the most protective laws in the country for water, and for Great Lakes water particularly. The thing is that Minnesota can't protect Lake Superior by itself. It needs Michigan and Wisconsin. Minnesota alone cannot control its own destiny or the destiny of Lake Superior. So, it needs the rest of the states, and it needs Congress."

Buchsbaum says the compact, which was endorsed by the eight Great Lakes governors in 2005, needs approval, in identical form, by each state legislature, Congress, and the White House to become law.

Jim Wishner/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MN