Great Lakes Compact in Congress

From the Detroit News:

A ban on water diversions from the Great Lakes advanced Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee voted to move it to the full House floor and the Senate Judiciary Committee heard advocates explain its urgency.

“We’re at the five-yard line,” said Andy Buchsbaum, the director of the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation. “We’ve really got momentum.”

The compact was signed by the eight governors of Great Lakes states: Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

It would ban diversions outside the basin in all but the rarest circumstances and encourage conservation.

Advocates worry that the looming water crisis in other parts of the nation and around the globe could end in forced diversions from the Great Lakes.

“The compact will protect the current quality and water levels of the Great Lakes by banning new diversions of water from the basin, while strictly regulating exceptions,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Detroit.

“Our economy — particularly in Michigan — depends on the Great Lakes for industrial and recreational uses, hydroelectric power, maritime commerce, and drinking water,” he added before his committee approved by voice vote sending the ratification legislation to the House floor.

Interstate water agreements must be consented to by the Congress and the president.

In normally slow-moving political Washington, ratification of the Great Lakes compact, introduced last week, is by any measure on a fast track.

President Bush issued a statement Monday night signaling he’ll sign it, and the two pivotal congressional panels took it up Wednesday.

While no vote has been scheduled in either chamber, Buchsbaum said he’d been told it could come up as early as today or Friday.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, the author of the ratification legislation in the Senate, said he’s hopeful it will pass before Congress adjourns, presently scheduled for late September.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell told the Senate committee, “There are good reasons why the original Native American tribes settled in this area, why the explorers came, why people settled here and built their cities, and why the area continues to provide a very high quality of life and economic well being for millions of people. It’s all about the water.”

Advocates for the compact point to 1998, when a Canadian company received a permit to ship millions of gallons of water from Lake Superior. Public outcry stopped the deal, but the incident made real the possibility of Great Lakes water being shipped to thirsty areas of the county or world.

One thought on “Great Lakes Compact in Congress

  1. Cecelia July 31, 2008 / 8:20 pm

    I love the Great Lakes, this is one of the best places to live in the country. I have lived in the mountains and I constantly missed the Great Lakes while I was there.

    I truly hope the ban passes.

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