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Great Lakes Article:

Governors unveil plan for Lake Erie
By Leo Shane III
Telegraph-Forum, Columbus Bureau
Published July 21st, 2004


COLUMBUS -- Governors from the eight Great Lakes states proposed a new regional agreement Monday to help restrict and monitor water usage from the five waterways.

The plan could stop recent efforts by southwestern U.S. states and other parched locations to siphon off some of the six quadrillion gallons of freshwater in the lakes -- a move regional officials call a serious threat to the lakes' health.

"The Great Lakes are a vital component of our environment, supporting our economies, recreation and our health," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. "These draft agreements put the health of the lakes first. We need to use this valuable, living resource wisely."

Gov. Bob Taft said the proposed interstate agreement would provide "unprecedented protection" for the lakes by mandating projects that siphon large amounts of water to not harm the lakes' water supplies or overall ecology.

Under the plan most projects taking more than 1 million gallons a day outside of 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 6 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.

Environmental groups hailed the proposal, which would also suggest guidelines for two Canadian provinces, as potentially a huge step in protecting the lakes.

"This promises to be one of the most important environmental protections of the century, on par with the Clean Water Act," said Molly Flanagan, water policy coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Council. "The lakes are a valuable resource and a national treasure, and we have to protect that."

But Flanagan said some of the formulas in the agreement, which would calculate daily water taking based on a 120-day period, are overly generous. Certain agricultural irrigation, which can run for just a few weeks at a time, might go unregulated even though it siphons millions of gallons of water.

Noah Hall, senior manager with the National Wildlife Federation, said he worries that the timeline for implementation of the agreement is too long.

The governors' council will hold a 90-day public comment period on the proposal, then work toward getting it approved by each state's legislature. The interstate agreement will also require Congressional approval.

After that, states will have 10 years to establish regulatory agencies and policies to enforce the new standards. Hall said the whole process could put off the restrictions for another 13 years.

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