Tuesday, May 22, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Joel Brammeier: (312) 939-0838 x224
Great Lakes Citizens Organization Praises
Illinois for Endorsement of Regional Water Use Compact
CHICAGO -- The oldest citizens Great Lakes organization in the United States and Canada today praised Illinois for becoming the second Great Lakes state to adopt the landmark water use compact signed by Great Lakes governors less than 1 ½ years ago.
This is a monumental step forward for protecting the Great Lakes waters we all revere, said Joel Brammeier, associate director for policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. The longer the remaining six states delay, the more they invite Congress to step in and establish water use standards for them.
The praise comes after the Illinois Senate unanimously approved the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Tuesday. The legislation now heads for Gov. Rod Blagojevichs signature to become law.
The measure to protect the waters of the Great Lakes a vast yet vulnerable resource that supplies 40 million people in the region with clean drinking water -- passed the states House of Representatives March 29 with a unanimous vote.
The new Illinois law -- sponsored in the House by Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago), and in the Senate by Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) -- comes after Minnesota became the first state in the region to endorse the Great Lakes Compact earlier this year.
Signed by the governors of all eight Great Lakes states in December 2005, the Compact will provide a set of uniform, binding water use standards for the region. Among its key protections: a requirement for water conservation measures to ensure limited harm to Great Lakes ecosystems; public participation and enforcement; and state flexibility to go beyond the minimum protections in the Compact.
The Compact also governs new or increased water withdrawals, consumptive uses and diversions of the seven other states that border the Great Lakes. Furthermore, new or increased water
diversions to places outside the Great Lakes watershed would be banned, with minor exceptions.
Congress requested standards years ago, Brammeier said. If we want to keep decision making here at home, states need to pass laws at home -- now -- that guarantee our fair control of Great Lakes waters.
Once endorsed by the legislatures of all the Great Lakes states, the Compact moves to the U.S. Congress for final ratification. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec are considering a complementary agreement that mirrors the Compact.
Brammeier lauded the work of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Illinois DNR, Illinois Environmental Council, Environment Illinois, and the Openlands Project for their efforts on behalf of the legislation in Illinois.
Major funding for the Alliances water conservation program is generously provided by the Oberweiler Foundation and Brico Fund.
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Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes (formerly the Lake Michigan Federation) is the oldest citizens' Great Lakes organization in North America. Its mission is to conserve and restore the world's largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife. More about the Alliance is online at www.greatlakes.org.