State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, and State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, 62nd District, responded positively today to the long-awaited introduction of the bill to implement the Great Lakes Compact. Cowles and Mason said they’re pleased that the implementing legislation is finally being introduced, but they still have concerns that will need to be addressed to ensure that the Great lakes are protected to the greatest extent possible.
"As we all know, the devil is in the details," Cowles said, "and this bill is going to require more work to make it as strong as it needs to be to protect our water from the folks in the Western part of the country who would like nothing more than to get their hands on this valuable resource."
The Compact was originally signed by all of the Great Lakes governors in Milwaukee back in 2005. For the Compact to go into effect, all the legislatures in the Great Lakes states must pass it, and the United States Congress must ratify it. Three other Great Lakes states have already passed laws adopting the compact, and the remaining states have introduced bills that are at various stages of the legislative process.
“I still have concerns about how this bill addresses return flow of treated sewage through rivers like the Root. I am concerned about some of the effective dates, and will looking closely to see how strong the conservation measures really are,” said Mason.
Mason and Cowles said their initial reading of the complicated 153-page bill is generally positive, but more work will need to be done to strengthen the Compact. Among their concerns are that standards for in-basin withdrawals must be tightened during the interim period between the passage of the bill in Wisconsin and the federal ratification of the Compact. Cowles and Mason said the bill must set standards to ensure that return flow of water to the lakes is of a temperature and quality that will be safe for the habitat and for drinking water.
“There are bipartisan concerns about the ability of this Compact bill to adequately protect all of Wisconsin’s communities. We should not let this historic opportunity go by without doing it right,” said Mason.