Clean Wisconsin: Highlights Great Lakes Compact Strengths & Weaknesses
For Immediate Release
MADISON, WIS (July 20, 2004) ó The Great Lakes are one of the natural wonders of the world and it is our collective responsibility to protect them. They are a place we call home and a resource for us to use and protect ─ they are the heart of the ecosystems that we rely on for life, and a gift of nature whose beauty and bounty enrich our lives and identify our region.
The next 90 days offer Wisconsinites an opportunity to express these values and comment on the federal and regional policy work being done in the Great Lakes region. On Monday July 19th the Council of Great Lakes Governors, led by Wisconsinís Governor Doyle, released two draft documents designed as a contract between the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
These documents are the first step in drafting laws that will affect how your Great Lakes water is used by the agriculture industry, manufacturing, businesses, and municipalities. One document is a good-faith agreement between the 10 states and provinces. This agreement includes general provisions, water management programs, regional review and dispute resolution. Once the final agreement is signed by the Governors and Premiers, it will provide the framework for each state and province to pass laws that will protect the Great Lakes Basin.
The other document is a compact (called the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact) to enhance joint decision making about the use of Great Lakes water. Both the agreement and the compact are designed to protect, conserve, restore, and improve the waters and water-dependent natural resources of the Great Lakes Basin.
On the plus side, the compact between the eight Great Lakes states:
- For the first time provides environmental standards for judging new water withdrawal proposals
- Protects all the waters of the Great Lakes basin, including streams and groundwater
- If approved by Congress as well as the states, would be legally binding on the states
- Requires most water withdrawals to be registered, and many to be permitted to help build a better understanding of how the region is using it waters.
- Provides good avenues for public participation in permitting decisions
- Provides good means for enforcing the provisions of the compact.
On the minus side, the compact needs:
- Better defined conservation measures
- A shorter phase-in period of the new rules; the proposed 10 years is to long
- Water withdrawal standards that donít exempt the largest users, like agriculture
- Provide a mechanism to better evaluate the ďcumulativeĒ impacts on local river and groundwater levels, recognizing that the environmental damage is greatest at the local level.
- To explicitly state the agreement will not undercut the exiting authority of Great Lakes states to veto any proposal diverting water out of the Great Lakes Basin.
Now is the time to take action and help protect your Great Lakes. Ask Governor Doyle to ensure that Wisconsin has more than one hearing on these two very important documents. Also, please tell Governor Doyle, before October 17, 2004, to strengthen the compact as noted above. You can reach him at 608.266.1212 or email@example.com. More details and a prewritten letter to Governor Doyle, can be found at www.cleanwisconson.org.
Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization founded as Wisconsinís Environmental Decade, protects Wisconsinís clean water and air and advocates for clean energy by being an effective voice in the state legislature and by holding elected officials and corporations accountable. Phone: 608.251.7020, Fax: 608.251.1655, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.cleanwisconsin.org.
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Derek Scheer, Water Policy Director, Clean Wisconsin 608-251-7020 email@example.com
Lori Wilson, Public Relations, Funnel Incorporated 608-251-5481 firstname.lastname@example.org