Great Lakes water usage agreement
Port Clinton News Herald
COLUMBUS -- The director of the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources said the Great Lakes states are on track to
develop a binding agreement controlling how much water
can be taken from the lakes.
Sam Speck is working with officials in eight states and
two Canadian provinces to develop a binding agreement
that "assures the sustainability of water of the
Great Lakes." The lakes make up the world's largest
supply of freshwater.
The process began when nine governors and two Canadian
premiers signed a charter annex in June 2001. The states
agreed to develop an interstate compact, setting across-the-board
standards for water usage.
But that was the easy part. The details of such an agreement
have been difficult to develop, Speck said, as he deals
with states that have different priorities, and different
political parties running the governors' offices and legislatures.
He said the effort was slowed somewhat by the 2002 election.
Five of the eight Great Lake states had changes in the
governor's office, meaning new administrations had to
get up to speed.
He still expects an agreement to be ready for legislation
by mid-2004. He has held eight hearings in Ohio on the
matter, and is now making monthly trips to Chicago to
hammer out the plan.
"Nobody is going to get everything they want in
this," he said, adding that the compact must be meaningful,
yet flexible enough to handle changing times.
For years, environmental groups have sounded off concerns
over the threats of over-usage of the Great Lakes, particularly
when proposals have popped up to ship the water west.
The Ohio Environmental Council on Monday presented Speck
with more than 1,000 signed postcards and petitions in
support of increased protections for Lake Erie water supplies.
"Current laws are not strong enough to protect Lake
Erie," said Molly Flanagan, water program associate
for the council. "Without stronger protection, the
Great Lakes' vast water supply could be siphoned off and
Lake Erie's water level, according to state officials,
is about nine to 10 inches below its long-term average,
and is down about one inch from last summer.