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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Endless' Great Lakes need states' protection
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 nature.

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 them.

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 local control.

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.

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