Michigan became the eighth and final state to ratify the Great Lakes Compact on Wednesday after Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a package of water use legislation which included the compact.
The Great Lakes Compact is an agreement between all states within the Great Lakes Basin to protect against withdrawals of large amounts of water to areas outside the basin.
The compact, originally created in 2005, prohibits most outsiders from diverting water from the Great Lakes Basin. Bob McCann, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said exceptions include communities near the basin that rely on its waters.
“If a community that borders the basin, but isn’t technically in it … has a proposal to use some of the Great Lakes water for their community, they have the opportunity at least for review,” McCann said. “That’s not to say they’re going to get the go ahead, necessarily.”
Even if a community is up for review, any state that is a member of the compact is able to veto the proposal, McCann said.
Hugh McDiarmid, communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council, said the compact is especially aimed at preventing water-strapped Southwestern states such as Arizona from leeching water from the Great Lakes.
Now that the compact has been signed by each member state’s governor, it must be passed in Congress to take effect. McCann said with supportive Midwestern states expected to lose congressional representation after the 2010 census and opposing Southwestern states expected to gain, quick action is important to get the bill passed.
“We’ve got to do it now if we’re ever going to get it done in congress,” he said. “We’ve got the votes to get this done, so it’s important to get this going.”
Megan Brown, a spokeswoman for Granholm, said the governor is aware of the need for quick action.
“The governor has urged our congressional leaders to work with their colleagues and to move quickly,” Brown said.
In addition to solidifying Michigan’s membership in the Great Lakes Compact, the package includes bills to regulate water use within the state, a move that each compact member state is required to make.
Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, was a sponsor to one of the bills in the package. Meadows’ bill requires permit-carrying consumers of Great Lakes water to report on their annual usage, allowing the state to track the impacts of water withdrawal.
Although Meadows said he doesn’t believe the legislation would affect any industries or municipalities in Ingham County, it will be important for tracking the impacts of bottled water and other commercial operations.