Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

May 3, 2007

Status on legislative passage of the Great Lakes Compact – May 2007

On December 13, 2005, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers signed agreements at the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ (CGLG) Leadership Summit that would provide protections for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact won’t take effect until it is endorsed by the region’s eight states and then ratified by Congress.

Changes since April update:

  • Illinois Senate bill 0050 passed April 25
  • Michigan House bill 4343 introduced
  • New York House and Senate bills introduced, House bill passes April 23.

Status by state:

Ohio and Wisconsin opposition to the Compact comes from a provision that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in “public trust” — see Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag:

  • Private property owners own groundwater beneath their land.
  • States might give up their sovereign right to state-owned water by agreeing to be part of a regional water board of eight states.
  • Criteria for water withdrawals should be made by state legislatures and not governors as in the Compact
  • Permits for withdrawals should be based on anticipated effects on watersheds, not on individual streams and tributaries within them.
  • Lets citizens sue government agencies over alleged violations, such as permitting excessive water withdrawals.

The pact has had little impact in Pennsylvania, where the only part of the state adjacent to the Great Lakes is a 40-mile stretch of Lake Erie frontage in the far northwestern corner.

On the Canadian side:

  • Legislation to strengthen the protection of water in the Great Lakes will be introduced Tuesday, April 3, in the Ontario legislature.
  • Quebec’s National Assembly has already ratified the agreement, but hasn’t yet updated its water use laws.

For information on the Compact: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

Source: CGLG State Legislative Activity to Enact the Compact

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