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May 27, 2008

A Column of Personal Opinion
By State Senator Sheila Harsdorf

Wisconsin Enacts
Great Lakes Compact


Wisconsin has officially joined a regional effort that would protect the Great Lakes from water diversion.  The Wisconsin enactment of the Great Lakes Compact is a proposed agreement amongst eight states and two Canadian provinces bordering the Great Lakes to manage these water resources.  To date, five states have officially enacted the agreement.  All eight states must adopt the agreement before it would be sent to U.S. Congress for ratification.   

Water levels of the Great Lakes are threatened by new external demands.  As the world’s largest source of freshwater, the Great Lakes are one of the nation’s most treasured resources which demands careful management.  However, other states that have poorly managed water resources are eyeing the Great Lakes for water diversion. 

Protecting our environment demands forward-looking policies.  Under the Great Lakes Compact, any one state or province can object to water diversion out of the basin area.   States are granted such a veto to ensure cooperation in a fashion that does not jeopardize the environment or our economic well-being.

I was pleased to join a bipartisan effort that helped enact this agreement and look forward to other states and the federal government ratifying it.  The Compact could prove to be one of the most significant long-term environmental legislative accomplishments.

Western Wisconsin is proud home to pioneers in our state’s environmental movement.   Former Governors Warren Knowles of New Richmond and Gaylord Nelson of Clear Lake share the name of our state’s stewardship program that sets aside open space for conservation and recreation.  The Stewardship Program was recently reauthorized through 2020 and has had a longstanding positive environmental impact for future generations.  Hopefully, the enactment of the Great Lakes Compact will be of similar benefit for Wisconsin citizens in the future.