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Great Lakes Article:

EDITORIAL- Health of the Great Lakes affects us all

Chillicothe Gazette
07/23/2004

When most residents of the Scioto Valley think of the term "body of water," they likely think about the Scioto River or Paint Creek, but the Great Lakes should also be a concern for southern Ohio residents -- even though we're three hours from Lake Erie. The plan to protect the Great Lakes from massive water diversion is a valuable step in heading off potential future problems. But it's lengthy timeline cries out for interim steps to provide temporary protection.

As the dry areas of the Southwest continue to be developed, there will be mounting problems with water supply and mounting pressure for diversion of our greatest natural resource. In recent years, there have been increasing indications of interest in siphoning off large amounts of Great Lakes water. Water may some day be at the center of bitter political and territorial battles. A firm policy protecting our water will be essential, and it's far better to have it in effect before the issue heats up.

This week, the governors from the eight Great Lakes states revealed a proposed new regional agreement to help restrict and monitor water usage from the five waterways. It's a plan that should help to protect the health of the lakes and ensure wise use of the natural resource. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said the proposed interstate agreement would provide "unprecedented protection" for the lakes by mandating projects siphoning large amounts of water not harm the lakes' water supplies or overall ecology. Such protection is badly needed.

Under the plan most projects taking more than 1 million gallons a day outside the Great Lakes Basin would first need approval from all eight Great Lakes states: Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The basin in Ohio extends to roughly the northern one-third of the state. Projects inside that watershed using more than 5 million gallons would also need approval from six of the states. All siphoning would require a return of some water, such as treated waste water, to ensure the effect on the lake's level is minimal.

Of concern about this entire process is the fact states will have 10 years to establish regulatory agencies and policies to enforce the new standards. Some say the whole process could put off the restrictions for another 13 years. Given the mounting pressure for water diversion, that may be too long.

The Great Lakes are a true treasure, boosting our quality of life, our economy and our environment as well as meeting the vital water needs of tens of millions of people. Strong protective measures are appropriate.

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