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
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
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
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.