WASHINGTON — Governor Jim Doyle today joined Congressional leaders representing Great Lakes states in unveiling bipartisan, bicameral legislation to give Congress’ consent to the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. Joining Governor Doyle, who is Chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, at a press conference on Capitol Hill were the six lead sponsors of the legislation, Senator Carl Levin (Mich.), Senator George Voinovich (Ohio), Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (Ohio) and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (Mich.).
“I applaud the members of Congress for their leadership in protecting the Great Lakes,” Governor Jim Doyle said. “It is gratifying to see the consensus that we have built in our region reflected in the bipartisan Congressional support for this historic measure. We must now do all that we can to work with our Congressional partners to turn these protections into law.”
Governor Doyle was in Washington today and yesterday meeting with Congressional leaders to urge them to pass the Compact. In addition to the lead legislation sponsors, Governor Doyle is scheduled to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senator Harry Reid (Nev.), Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Rep. John Mica (Fla.), Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), Senator Russ Feingold (Wis.), Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.), and James Connaughton, Chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality. The Great Lakes Compact has been approved by the eight state legislatures, and now must be consented to by the U.S. Congress to achieve full force and effect as an interstate compact.
Once implemented, the Compact will create unprecedented protections for the Great Lakes and ensure their continued availability for regional economic growth. It will ban long-distance diversions and provide a framework for ensuring sustainable water use in the Great Lakes basin.
Historically, states and the federal government have supported interstate compacts to address water supply, water quality and flood control issues within the hydrological context of watersheds and basins. As of July 2008, there are at least 41 interstate water compacts that have been entered into by the party states and consented to by the U.S. Congress. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia currently belong to at least one interstate water compact and many states belong to more than one.
The Compact has attracted the support of key members of Congress, mayors and local government officials as well as more than 150 diverse groups of stakeholders who depend on the Great Lakes. More than 1,300 state legislators have voted to approve the Compact—about 95 percent of all legislators who have cast a vote on it.
The Great Lakes generate $55 billion in tourism for the region and create nearly $377 million in personal income from wages and salaries. Wisconsin’s harbors handle more than 40 million metric tons of cargo that support 11,000 jobs and are worth more than $7 billion a year.