States, Canadian officials sign pact
to protect Great Lakes
By Amy F. Bailey
Associated Press, The Repository, Canton OH
Published July 21, 2004
It would be nearly impossible to divert large amounts
of water from the Great Lakes to other areas of the country
under provisions of a sweeping interstate pact and international
agreement aimed at protecting and improving the water
The proposed Great Lakes Charter Annex, released Monday,
only would allow new or increased withdrawals on any of
the five Great Lakes if water immediately were returned
and the condition of the lakes were improved.
The measure would leave the door open for Great Lakes
water to be shipped to areas in the region that are outside
the basin but prevent it from heading to other areas,
such as the Southwest.
“That’s intentional,” said Noah Hall, senior manager
of Great Lakes Water Resource Program of the National
Wildlife Federation. “We basically want to do everything
that’s possible to stop diversion that is going to hurt
Akron wins withdrawal rights
A few municipalities in the region — Akron, Ohio, and
Pleasant Prairie, Wis. — have received approval to withdraw
water outside the basin.
The proposed agreement would require new or increased
diversions by municipalities to return cleaned waste water
to the lakes to limit any drawdown of the fresh water
The agreement would require the eight Great Lakes governors,
in consultation with the premiers of Ontario and Quebec,
to unanimously approve any new diversion that would take
outside the basin an average 1 million gallons a day over
a 120-day period.
A super-majority vote among the Great Lakes governors
— 6-2 — would be needed for a new or expanded withdrawal
within the basin that results in a loss of an average
5 million gallons a day over 120 days.
Other, smaller proposed diversions would be reviewed
by the jurisdictions where they were recommended.
The proposed agreement is the result of three years of
work by the Great Lakes governors and an advisory group
of environmentalists and representatives of local government,
business and agriculture.
Effort began in 2001
In 2001, the premieres of Ontario and Quebec and the
governors of the eight Great Lakes states — Illinois,
Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania
and Wisconsin — agreed to create by 2004 a binding agreement
for lake diversion and conservation.
Monday’s release of the Great Lakes Compact starts the
clock on a 90-day public comment period.
The Council of Great Lakes Governors will hold public
hearings on the proposal on Sept. 8 in Chicago and on
Sept. 20 in Toronto.
Each of the Great Lakes states also may hold their own
public hearings on the proposed agreement during the 90-day
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, co-chairman of the Council of Great
Lakes Governors, said Monday he hopes a final agreement
will be signed by the governors in the region early next
But it could be another few years before the agreement
becomes law because it must be approved by Congress and
the legislatures in each of the Great Lakes states.
The proposal would require regional review for diversions
that take out an average of 5 million gallons a day over
a 120-day period. States would have 10 years to create
and institute a review program for smaller withdrawals.
Although there is no immediate threat of diversion from
the Great Lakes, environmentalists and a few governors
in the region have said it’s important to have a set of
standards and regulations over withdrawals.
They point to population shifts from the Midwest to the
Southwest, which increases that region’s need for water
and gives it more representation, and more influence,
Attempts already logged
“There have already been attempts to divert Great Lakes
water out of the region. ... We expect those types of
efforts could well increase,” Taft said during a teleconference
with Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, also a co-chairman of the
Council of Great Lakes Governors.
The proposed agreement is expected to face opposition.
Scott Piggott, manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau’s
Agricultural Ecology Department, said he is worried the
new regulations will impinge on farmers’ ability to use
“We’re not in short supply of water,” Piggott said. “It’s
hard to tell farmers they need to be cautious of something
when it’s so plentiful.”
The proposal not only would make it difficult for areas
outside the basin to divert water from the Great Lakes,
it would require conservation by those who live and work
in the basin.
On the Net, Council of Great Lakes Governors: