Great Lakes Compact is historical opportunity

    The Great Lakes are one of the world’s most precious natural resources. From the majestic shores of Lake Michigan to the brutal and beautiful waters of Lakes Superior, the Great Lakes are not just part of our heritage, but part of who we are.

    They are the reason why so many people choose to live in the Midwest, take a vacation here, or locate their business here.

    As governor, I’ve taken aggressive action to protect these resources and have worked hard to reach a bipartisan agreement. Two years ago, eight governors and two Canadian premiers representing the Great Lakes states came together in Milwaukee to endorse the Great Lakes Compact.

    Today, I am proud to say, we are one step closer to making this agreement a reality. Earlier this month, I signed April 2008 Special Session Senate Bill 1, ratifying the compact and creating unprecedented protections for the Great Lakes and ensuring 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.

    In order to become law, each state legislature must ratify the compact and Congress must give its consent. Wisconsin joins Minnesota, Illinois, New York and Indiana in completing their legislative approval. Quebec and Ontario have also approved the agreement, while legislation is pending in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
    From our farmers to our industries to our environmental stewards, I appreciate everyone who contributed to getting this done. This agreement has broad and bipartisan support. It passed the Wisconsin legislature overwhelmingly, 32-1 in the Senate and 96-1 in the Assembly.

    The Great Lakes Compact not only protects these resources for generations to come, but presents a great economic opportunity for Wisconsin, where we have the second-largest amount of Great Lakes shoreline of anyone. One of our greatest competitive advantages in a 21st Century global economy is our water – water that will help Wisconsin businesses grow and draw new businesses to our state. 

    As water sources in metropolitan areas across the country dry up, our sparkling blue waters will look better than they ever have. It’s imperative we keep that water here in the Midwest, not in faraway deserts in other corners of the country.

    If some city in another state wants to drain the Great Lakes, Wisconsin’s governor should be able to stand up, say no and prevent that from happening. One state veto power protects Wisconsin communities. And federal law already allows it. The Great Lakes Compact not only keeps this important provision in place, but does so in a way that sets standards for sustainable management of our waters. It sets up a reliable system for communities near the basin, cities like Waukesha and New Berlin, to receive Great Lakes water.

    Our national economy depends on the Great Lakes. More than 35 million Americans live, work and recreate in, on or by the waters of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes generate $55 billion in tourism for the region and create nearly $377 million in personal income from wages and salaries. In Wisconsin alone, the Great Lakes support more than 11,000 jobs in the state’s ports.

    Protecting these lakes is critical, not only for the governors and the millions of citizens who call the Great Lakes home, but for the entire nation. And I am happy to say that here in Wisconsin we have signed an agreement that protects these resources and ensures that our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities to enjoy the Great Lakes that we have today.

    For the Great Lakes are not only Wisconsin’s greatest natural resource, they are a part of who we are.

    Jim Doyle is governor of Wisconsin.

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