Wednesday, Jun 29, 2016
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Great Lakes pact is signed by Michigan, last of 8 states

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Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, seated, holds the Great Lakes compact with state Sen. Patricia Birkholz after signing it on the shores of Lake Michigan at Saugatuck.

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SAUGATUCK, Mich. - With the stroke of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's pen yesterday at a Saugatuck beach, Michigan, which calls itself the Great Lakes State, became the last of eight states to formally approve a compact to protect the Great Lakes from having their water diverted to other regions.

A day earlier, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced he had signed a ratification bill.

"This is a defining moment in Michigan history," Ms. 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 governor said.

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

Measures to ratify the deal in Congress will be introduced shortly, said David Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

More than 20 members have endorsed it, including Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, the presumptive presidential nominees. Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, said he would be a co-sponsor.

Carl Levin (D., Mich.) and George Voinovich (R., Ohio) will be the primary Senate sponsors.

In the House, support will be led by Rep. James Oberstar, (D., Minn.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Supporters hope the pact will be approved this fall and sent to President Bush, whose administration has voiced no opposition.

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

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

"It is gratifying to see our region uniting as never before to protect the Great Lakes," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, chairman of the council.

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