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Great Lakes Compact Passes PA, Prepares to Head to Congress
Historic protections for the Great Lakes have now cleared the legislatures of all eight Great Lakes states, after the Pennsylvania Senate adopted the measure unanimously this evening.
Work on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact now enters its final phase as it prepares to move to the U.S. Congress for ratification.
Pennsylvania joins Michigan as one of the last two states to endorse the compact, with Michigan's vote occurring last week. The governors of both states are anticipated to sign it.
“It is an historic moment for the Great Lakes when all the states, through both their governors and legislatures, recognize that this incredible resource is important to us collectively,” said Sharon Cook, Water Conservation Program director for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
“It’s clear that the Great Lakes states can come together to regulate and manage the resource that we share.”
The Pennsylvania Senate’s action today came in the waning hours before its scheduled summer recess. Pennsylvania’s House adopted the legislation in January.
It was 2 ½ years ago that the region's governors signed the interstate compact in Milwaukee and sent it on to the region’s legislatures. In Canada, lawmakers in the Great Lakes-bordering provinces of Ontario and Quebec signed a companion agreement –- embarking upon a parallel process that respects Canadian laws.
The compact is an answer to thirsty interests that seek to tap Great Lakes water -- including its groundwater, inland lakes and rivers -- from as far away as Asia. The Great Lakes governors began considering new water protections a decade ago after a proposal to ship Great Lakes water to Asia in tankers gained preliminary approval, permission later rescinded in the face of mounting criticism.
The compact provides a model for a standardized, consensus-based approach to decisions about Great Lakes water use, with the idea that care and protection of the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes – home to fully 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater -- starts at home.
Diversions of Great Lakes water to places outside the vast watershed are banned, with limited exceptions, and are further discouraged by requiring that water removed from the basin must be returned to it.
“Certainly the public spoke loud and strong about the importance of the Great Lakes and keeping the water where it belongs,” said Cook.