Follow up to April Midtown Brews: Mighty Blue: The Great Lakes Basin Compact

Submitted by Betsey Merkel on Sat, 05/17/2008 - 13:39.

From Marnie Urso, Audubon Ohio and guest for the April Midtown Brews forum on the Great Lakes Basin Water Compact:

1) Compact Wins Final Approval; Some Observations, And A Reassurance From The DNR

Wednesday, May 14, 2008, The Political Environment blog by James Rowen

The Great Lakes Compact was approved by the Assembly late Wednesday on a 92-1 vote, meaning it passed both houses with only single "no" votes in each, and will be signed by Gov. Jim Doyle.



2) Great Lakes compact passes

Measure awaits Doyle's signature; Assembly narrowly OKs budget-repair bill

sforster [at] journalsentinel [dot] com

Posted: May 14, 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Madison - Both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly approved the Great Lakes compact Wednesday, sending it to Gov. Jim Doyle and putting pressure on the states that have not yet ratified it.



The Assembly also narrowly approved the budget-repair bill passed by the Senate Tuesday. That package now heads to Doyle, who has said he will rewrite it with vetoes.

Lawmakers praised passage of the compact as a historic step for Wisconsin - as well as the other seven Great Lakes states. They said it would protect a resource critical to the state's culture and economic development and give thirsty communities in southeastern Wisconsin a path for tapping Great Lakes water.

The compact is an agreement by eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces to protect the lakes from large-scale water diversions and promote water conservation. It passed the state Senate 32-1 and the Assembly 96-1.

Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Rep. Sheryl Albers (R-Reedsburg) were the only legislators to oppose it.

It now heads to the desk of Doyle, who has pledged to sign it.

"Wisconsin has been blessed with one of the world's most incredible natural resources," Doyle said in a statement. "In a world where water is becoming more precious, the Great Lakes help Wisconsin businesses grow and attract new businesses to our state."

Concern that states to the west and south will look to divert water from the Great Lakes has added urgency to efforts to protect them.

"The waters of the Great Lakes do not belong to Wisconsin, they do not belong to Michigan, they do not belong to New York," said Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona), who helped craft the legislation. "They do not belong to any state. They belong to all of us. They are a shared resource."

A majority of the Great Lakes states have now approved the compact; Wisconsin joins Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and New York in passing it.

Once it is ratified in the remaining states - Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania - it must be ratified by Congress.

The Wisconsin Senate first voted on the compact in March, but the Assembly objected to certain provisions and didn't act on it before the regular legislative session ended.

After negotiations between Doyle's staff and legislative leaders yielded a deal, Doyle last month called a special session of the Legislature.

Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford), who worked with Miller on the bill, noted there were doubts that he and Assembly Republicans would pass a compact but said it was necessary to address concerns before adopting the compact.

"We've got something that will protect the Great Lakes for generations to come," Gunderson said. "Sometimes you've just got to sit back, take a breath, do our work and communicate, and when we do that we come up with historic legislation as we have before us today."

Although there were some changes made to plans for implementing it, the compact's original language was untouched, including the element to which some objected - that one of the eight governors could stand in the way of any future water diversion to a community entirely outside the Great Lakes basin.

Local diversions possible

The clearing of a path to Great Lakes water is important for communities such as New Berlin and Waukesha. The compact blocks diversions outside the basin but grants exceptions to communities and counties that straddle the Great Lakes basin dividing line if treated wastewater is returned to the lakes.

Communities denied diversions that otherwise meet criteria in the compact may appeal and sue.

Passage of the compact earned praise from local leaders and conservation groups throughout the state.

Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson said the legislation provides clear guidelines for communities such as Waukesha.

"We need a new water supply, and Lake Michigan would be the most sustainable choice," Nelson said. "This legislation will allow us to pursue that option."

Jodi Habush Sinykin, a lawyer from Midwest Environmental Advocates, said the deal was "a strong, protective compact."

Anne Sayers, program director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, said passage of the compact was critical because other states are looking anywhere they can to solve their water problems.

"The fact that we have 20% of the world's fresh water sitting in the Great Lakes has not gone unnoticed by other thirsty states," she said.

Passage in Wisconsin puts pressure on the remaining statesto move the compact forward.

"It will create a domino effect, and other states will follow suit," Miller said.

Sharon Cook, water conservation program director for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said Wisconsin's ability to pass a bill despite some of the challenges the state faced sends a message to others it can be done.

Albers and Lazich said there were too many unanswered questions about the effect of the compact, prompting their "no" votes.

"The broadness of the document, the lack of definition of what's going to happen in the future, gives me pause," Lazich said.

Budget bill

In other action, the Assembly approved 51-46 a package to repair the state budget.

Nineteen Democrats joined 32 Republicans to push the bill through the GOP-controlled house.

Members of both parties bashed the deal on the Assembly floor, calling it irresponsible for refinancing the state's tobacco settlement payments, relying on what they called accounting tricks and not making tougher budget cuts.

"If we cannot find the resolve to actually cut spending in an economic downturn, we will never be able to do so," said Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).

"This is horrible policy - policy that is going to come back to bite you in the future," said Rep. Frank Boyle (D-Superior).

Leaders from both parties said the deal was flawed but that it was the only one they could get through a split Legislature.

Doyle has said he dislikes major aspects of the bill and will rewrite it with his powerful veto pen.

Lawmakers passed a two-year budget in October, but adjustments are needed because tax collections are now expected to be $652 million lower than first projected.

Journal Sentinel reporters Darryl Enriquez in Waukesha and Dan Egan in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

Great Lakes Compact Press Release--May 2008.doc27 KB
( categories: )

The Declining Great Lakes

This article shows how the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1960's began the draining of the Great Lakes. Essentialy, the rivers into and out of the Great Lakes were dredged allowing more water to flow out of the lakes.

"GBA, not satisfied by the official explanation, pressed on and financed a study of lake drainage by the respected engineering and consulting firm Baird and Associates Coastal Engineers. The Baird study, led by Dr. Rob Nairn, reached an alarming conclusion. The study found, reported the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that “a 1962 Army Corps of Engineers dredging project, done in conjunction with St. Lawrence Seaway construction, essentially pulled the plug on Lakes Michigan and Huron, sending an average of nearly 1 billion gallons a day out to sea.”

Great Lakes Water Compact

Ronduck--thanks for the link to the New American, which presents a historic context for this debate and I am scared. 

As a culture, we have no respect for watersheds and the protection of water quality.  This will get a whole lot uglier. 

The New American

The New American Is published by the John Birch Society, they wrote the article to point out that there are very real environmental threats here in the US other than global warming, which they believe to be a hoax.

I think the best solution for the declining lakes would be to build a lock and dam between Lake Erie and the lake that feeds it to control the unneccessary outflow.