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Published: Wednesday, 7/9/2008

Michigan governor signs Great Lakes compact


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. Michigan has become the last of the eight Great Lakes states to join a compact designed to protect the region s water.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation approving the compact during a ceremony Wednesday at Oval Beach in the Lake Michigan town of Saugatuck. A day earlier, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced he had signed a ratification bill.

This is a defining moment in Michigan history, Granholm said. We must do our part to ensure that our Great Lakes are protected and preserved for generations to come. This legislation fulfills that promise.

The pact still needs approval of Congress and the White House. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have adopted a nearly identical document. They could not join the compact because U.S. states cannot make treaties with foreign governments.

The agreement outlaws diversions of Great Lakes water from their natural drainage basin with rare exceptions, while requiring the states to regulate their own large-scale water use.

Granholm also signed bills to manage Michigan s use of surface and ground water. It establishes a computer system to help businesses determine when and where they can make withdrawals.

This historic legislation will help preserve our waters but keep them available for recreational, agricultural and business purposes, said state Sen. Patricia Birkholz, a Republican from Saugatuck Township and chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.

The Council of Great Lakes Governors spent four years negotiating the deal amid rising concern that the worldwide freshwater shortage would lead thirsty regions to tap into the lakes.

Measures seeking congressional ratification should be introduced soon, said David Naftzger, executive director of the council. Sens. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, are expected to be primary sponsors.

In the House, support for the pact will be led by Rep. James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

More than 20 members of Congress have endorsed the compact, as have Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. The Bush administration has voiced no opposition.

Supporters hope it can be ratified this year, Naftzger said.

With the momentum that s been generated by the states getting finished and the broad-based support in Congress that is growing every day, we feel that s a good goal to work toward, he said.

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