May 14, 2008

Senate passes Great Lakes Compact

Sen. John Lehman issued the following statement today, after the Wisconsin State Senate approved the Great Lakes Compact:

Lehman, State Senate Vote to Approve Great Lakes Compact

Madison – State Senator John Lehman joined thirty one Senate colleagues in voting to approve the Great Lakes Compact. Today’s Senate action ratifies an agreement among the seven states and two Canadian provinces bordering the Great Lakes to protect this valuable natural resource by limiting the diversion of water outside of the area, regulating water usage in the area and encouraging conservation measures statewide.

“Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes are crucial to the health and well-being of Racine’s economy and all of Wisconsin. Our action today is an historic step to protect this irreplaceable natural resource for generations to come. It is probably the most important, pro-environment vote we will ever have a chance to cast,” commented Lehman.

The State Assembly is expected to take up and approve the compact yet this week. The agreement must also gain the approval of all seven states and be ratified by the U.S. Congress before it goes into effect. To date Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and New York have ratified the compact.

Lehman, who helped develop the legislation as part of a bipartisan working group, said major provisions of the bill are:
--Formal ratification to the compact agreement itself regulating the use of Great Lakes water within the geographic basin and diversion of water outside of the area;
--New statutes for the use of water in the area of the Great Lakes basin prior to the compact going into effect;
--Implementation of the provision of the compact when it is ratified by all the Great Lakes states and U.S. Congress and;
--Establishment of a process for communities statewide to develop local water supply plans.
“Our bill establishes clear rules for current and potential users of the resource and strong regulations on the diversion of water to help protect the quality and quantity of Great Lakes water we enjoy.”

Support for the compact and implementing legislation from environmental and business interests and across party lines in the legislature is recognition of the importance of water to the economic future of the state and significance for public health according to Lehman. Proactively protecting Wisconsin’s water resources preserves access to a safe, reliable supply of water and prevents the struggles of many areas of the country like the South and Southwest where water shortages are increasing costs for businesses and residents and poor water quality is a health hazard.

Lehman concluded, “I’m proud to have been part of the process and cast my vote today in favor of protecting Wisconsin’s economic and environmental health.”

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