Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Great Lakes Governors Again Urge Passage Of The Great Lakes Compact

Noting the potential harm to the Great Lakes inherent in obstructionist legislative tactics in Ohio and Wisconsin, the Great Lakes Governors have reiterated their call for passage of the Great Lakes Compact.

The Council of Great Lakes Governors website carries this renewed call for adoption: four states' legislatures among the eight bordering the Great Lakes have approved the Compact.

Gov. Jim Doyle is the group's chairman, raising the stakes in Wisconsin over approval or obstruction.

The Governors' statement in pdf format is here as a news release.

And only Wisconsin, where GOP Assembly leaders said Thursday they want to send the Compact back to all the states for renegotiations - - an obvious procedural method of killing it - - has yet to have a Compact-ratifying and implementing bill formally introduced for debate.

The negotiations to produce the Compact already approved by half the states' legislatures took nearly five years to complete in 2005. New negotiations to allow a few opponents to gut the original are never going to happen.

And because the agreement is a cooperative document to manage a shared resource, reopening the negotiations would only embolden a handful of self-interested critics - - centered in Waukesha County - - who would continue to demand more and more concessions.

The amazing thing about the Assembly GOP's action is that the Compact contains diversion exemptions and procedural breaks for communities like New Berlin which are looking to immediately obtain a Lake Michigan diversion.

Without the Compact and its exemptions - - inserted into the negotiations towards their conclusion specifically to assist New Berlin (along with other changes that make it more likely that even Waukesha, an out-of-basin community, could successfully make win a case for a diversion) - - New Berlin and Waukesha face much tougher diversion legal obstacles in an existing federal law.

Without all eight states approving highly-similar Compact bills, this complex agreement to better manage the Great Lakes and promote regional water conservation could wither, or fail altogether, opening the Great Lakes to unregulated diversions and other negative consequences.

The Governors are right to push for adoption, now.

I don't expect the Assembly leaders to heed the Governors' actions, but their statement will help Wisconsin residents and others around the Great Lakes region better understand who is for the Great Lakes, and who is against them.

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