Editorial: Endless' Great Lakes need
South Bend Tribune
Published August 23, 2005
When folks in this region envision the Great Lakes, what
do they see?
An endless expanse of blue. Stunning sunsets. A wealth
of economic and recreational opportunities. A haven for
And when people from the rest of the country envision
the Great Lakes, what do they see?
Water. Billions and billions of gallons of water.
They don't have enough water of their own and they need
to find it in other places.
That is why a plan is needed to protect the Great Lakes
and keep at bay outside interests that might threaten
them. We welcome the work of the Council of Great Lakes
Governors, which represents eight states and two Canadian
provinces. It has been convening since 2001 to devise
a master plan for preventing Great Lakes exploitation.
There have been all sorts of schemes connected to the
Great Lakes' water. They were mostly -- quite literally
-- pipe dreams. One involved building a pipe to send Great
Lakes water to Wyoming. Another would have diverted Lake
Erie water to New York City. Still another would have
tied Lake Superior to the Missouri River via canal. And
don't you just know that some people in the arid Southwest
look at our trillions of gallons and convince themselves
they ought to have a share of that?
The plan proposed by the Council of Great Lakes Governors
would require that any use of water outside the Great
Lakes basin would have to receive unanimous consent of
the 10 governors. The states or provinces would oversee
water use within their own jurisdictions.
This unity of purpose is most welcome. The Great Lakes
are bound to be viewed by some as an easy answer to water
shortage problems. But the fact is, the big lakes are
fragile. They naturally withstand cycles of low and high
water. And there already is a lot of human pressure on
In the late 1990s, Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie receded
more than three feet. The total water loss was some 63
trillion gallons. Although largely regarded as a natural
phenomenon, it also is a fact that communities and hydro
power projects draw off 900 billion gallons of water a
day from the Great Lakes.
In order for the lakes region to be able to control the
human pressure, the governors' plan will need to withstand
lawsuits. There are bound to be some.
It also must be acceptable to all parties. There have
been numerous revisions in order to address concerns about
In order for the water use agreement to be implemented,
it must be ratified by all state legislatures and Congress.
The ratification process could begin early next year.
A lot of careful work and compromise has gone into the
Great Lakes water use plan. We welcome it and we encourage
state legislators to support the process. The day may
come when they will be very glad they did.