The recent momentum generated by Indiana and New York’s approval of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact may not be enough to convince a few lawmakers in Ohio and Wisconsin to follow suit. Legislators in the two states, currently a battlefield for the democratic presidential nominating process, are also stymieing the compact over last minute legalistic arguments. At stake is the ability of the Great Lakes states to keep the water in the Great Lakes, as well as limit invasive species and ecological devastation.
“This is a shortsighted move that places the special interests of a few over the water security needs of more than 40 million people and the economic vitality of the region,” Molly Flanagan, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes water program manager told the Toledo Blade. “This amounts to a hijacking of the compact that jeopardizes the region’s ability to protect the Great Lakes.”
But some Ohio Senators feel that former Gov. Bob Taft, who led the four-year long Great Lakes governors’ compact negotiations, signed off on a flawed agreement, according to the Associated Press. They fear that by including tributaries and streams in the Great Lakes basin they are opening up their Northern border counties to Big Government. Their fears are unfounded and their solutions misguided. The Senators would like to change the wording of the compact in the Senate version before agreeing to it, but the Ohio House overwhelmingly (88-3) approved the original and formerly agreed to version of the Compact today as have half the state legislatures in the region.
Last week the Indiana House agreed with the Senate and passed the Compact that will prevent water from being diverted from the region and aid in efforts to stem pollution and invasive species. Now, Governor Mitch Daniels has ten days to sign the compact and Indiana will join Minnesota and Illinois whose lawmakers previously approved the agreement.
The week prior, the New York legislature also approved the Compact -one week after the state Senate- and it is now sitting on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s desk awaiting his signature. Once pen is put to paper, we are half-way to having the compact adopted by all eight states. Legislation is pending in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It is mind boggling that states are stalling on this – as it will give them the negotiating power they need to manage the Great Lakes and prevent outsiders from taking the water.
Once all eight states approve the Compact, Congress will have to ratify the decision and make it law. The right decision would send a powerful message to the leading candidates vying for Wisconsin and Ohio’s primary votes that this is an issue of utmost significance to each state’s lawmaking bodies and public.