News From Congressman John D. Dingell
Serving Michigan’s 15th Congressional District
NEWS RELEASE Contact: Michael Robbins
September 23, 2008 202/225-4071
Washington - Today, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) helped pass S.J.Res. 45, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Compact. The bill passed the House with a vote of 390-25. Seven years in the making, the Compact would prevent the potential threat of falling water levels in the Great Lakes Basin, a national treasure and precious natural resource. The Compact bans new and increased water diversions from the Great Lakes with limited exceptions.
Noting the bipartisan and multi-level government efforts, Congressman Dingell said, “Since Annex 2001, our eight Great Lakes state and federal legislators, governors, and stakeholders, along with our Canadian counterparts, have worked to make the Great Lakes Compact a reality. I particularly want to thank Governor Granholm and Senator Levin for their tremendous work on behalf of the State of Michigan.”
Now that all eight Great Lakes states have ratified the Compact, and both the House and Senate have passed S.J.Res. 45, it will go to the President for signature. Congressman Dingell made the following statement on the House passage:
“Madame Speaker: I rise today in strong support of S.J.Res. 45, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. As an original cosponsor of the companion legislation reported by the House Judiciary Committee and as co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, I am very pleased that Congress is taking this historic and much-needed step forward to enact legislation implementing a framework for overall management of our precious natural resource: the Great Lakes basin.
The Great Lakes make up 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater and 90 percent of the surface freshwater of the United States. The Basin provides its surrounding states with major economic benefits, some of which include tourism, manufacturing jobs, shipping, and clean drinking water. It is also provides habitat for millions of breeding mallards, other ducks, and migratory waterfowl and supports a diversity of species and ecosystems vital to our natural world. We in Congress, as well as state and local policymakers, have attempted to address the potential threat low water levels in the Great Lakes will have in the future on our national treasure. In 2000, the Congress directed the governors of the eight Great Lakes States to negotiate a water management agreement. In 2005, the governors completed negotiations, which included coordination with the Canadian Premiers in Ontario and Quebec. Since then, the State Legislatures in all eight states have agreed to the Compact, and the Governors have signed the legislation. On August 4, 2008 I proudly took part as Governor Granholm signed the Compact after it was ratified by the Michigan Legislature. In the Senate, our senior Senator, Carl Levin, provided extraordinary leadership to get the bill passed through that body. Today, with the active support of members representing the Great Lakes’ states, we will vote on this legislation in the House.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact will mandate a general ban on new diversions of water from the Basin with limited exceptions for communities near the Basin meeting rigorous standards. All of the Great Lakes’ states and their communities will have to comply with new standards and all will be subject to consistent decision-making and appeals processes. The Compact also calls on Great Lakes’ states to develop regional goals and objectives for water conservation and efficiency. One of the most important aspects of the Compact, it is designed in a way that will ensure the Great Lakes Basin continues to provide a solid economic base for its surrounding states.
Madame Speaker, as I have recently noted, the Great Lakes Basin deserves much more attention than it has gotten over the past eight years from the Bush Administration. One of the ways we protect the Great Lakes is by providing its governing agencies with the money they need to do their job. With my support, the House passed last week the Great Lakes Legacy Reauthorization Act which, among other things, authorized $150 million a year for five years to clean up toxic pollutants contaminating the Lakes. Another way we will serve the best interest of the Great Lakes is by moving forward with the Great Lakes Compact and, with the help of our future President,—hopefully one from Illinois who understands the importance of protecting the Great Lakes—put the Basin on a path of sustained water levels over the long-term.
Some have expressed concerns about the Great Lakes Compact, such as whether the Compact will subject Great Lakes waters to international trade agreements, what the legal and practical implications are of exempting diversions of water in containers less than 5.7 gallons, and whether the designation of water as a “product” would subject state actions restricting diversions to claims under the World Trade Organization. These considerations and questions were raised as states legislatures were deliberating on approval of the Compact. The acknowledged need for action now - and not some time in the future – coupled with the reassurances of language already in the Compact prompted all eight Great Lakes states to ratify the Compact. Today, the House must respond with the same urgency; we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Madame Speaker, again, I thank my colleagues from the Great Lakes’ delegation who have worked so hard on the Compact over the years, and urge them to join me in voting “yes” on S.J.Res. 45.”