As the legislative session drew to an end in Wisconsin last month it looked like hopes that the statehouse would pass the Great Lakes Compact were going to die with it. The environmental agreement between the Great Lakes states had broad popular support and was passed by a ...
As the legislative session drew to an end in Wisconsin last month it looked like hopes that the statehouse would pass the Great Lakes Compact were going to die with it. The environmental agreement between the Great Lakes states had broad popular support and was passed by a wide margin in the Wisconsin Senate, but was then tabled by House Republicans. The state governments of Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, and New York had already ratified the compact, but without the support of the remaining member states the agreement would go up in smoke.
It now appears that, in Wisconsin anyway, that's not going to happen. Democratic Governor Jim Doyle announced yesterday that he was calling a special session of the state legislature to pass the Compact and, furthermore, that a compromise agreement had already been reached. Here is a nutshell description of what the contract accomplishes:
The compact is an agreement of the seven Great Lakes state governors and the two Great Lakes Canadian provinces to regulate water diversions outside of the Great Lakes basin. Under the compact, long distance diversions will not be allowed. Communities in counties, such as Waukesha County, that straddle the edge of the basin, will be able to apply for a Great Lakes water diversion.
Basically, the agreement is a way of ensuring that water from the Great Lakes remains in the Great Lakes Region. It's an environmentally sound plan that got hung up in Wisconsin because of two separate provisions.
(More after the jump ...)
The first was a rule that gives veto authority over water diversions to any governor of a Great Lakes state. If, for example, the state of Michigan wanted to sell water to Georgia, all eight governors from the Compact states would need to approve the transaction. Initially, Wisconsin Republicans said the veto power would infringe on the state's sovereignty, but they appear to have come around to supporting it.
The second sticking point was a provision that made it difficult for communities located in Great Lakes states -- but not near the water basin --to take Great Lakes Water. Now the towns will be able to divert water provided "they have conservation plans in place and agree to return the water to the basin," according to the Green Bay Gazette.
But in order to reach the compromise, environmentally minded lawmakers did have to sacrifice one provision. From the Gazette:
The statewide water conservation standards in the version passed by the Senate were excluded in the compromise. [Sen. Dave Hansen, D- Green Bay] said the standards will be "mandatory only within the basin, and voluntary outside the basin."
With passage imminent in Wisconsin, national attention will now turn to Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the three states that have not yet ratified the contract.
Image courtesy of CoastWatch.