Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Great Lakes Compact Marks 10-Year Anniversary

Oct 04, 2018

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Great Lakes Compact this week, there is plenty of reason for celebration as well as significant cause for concern.

The Compact was signed into law by George W. Bush in October 2008. Its existence is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the citizens of eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces who worked for years to craft an agreement to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. Skeptics claimed that the project was too ambitious and that getting such a diverse group of stakeholders to agree to the legislation could never be achieved. In the end, champions of the legislation proved the naysayers wrong, and we now have a law that protects the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world.

The federal legislation runs to 26 pages, but the essence of the Compact can be distilled into one simple idea: the waters of the Great Lakes must stay in the Great Lakes Basin and must be managed to meet the needs of all citizens who live here. The legislation allows for only a few narrowly defined exceptions, but recent efforts by powerful special interests to divert millions of gallons of water a day outside the basin threaten to undermine the future of the Compact.

Earlier this year, the City of Racine asked our Department of Natural Resources for permission to send 2.5 billion gallons of Great Lakes water out of the Basin every year. The law requires that any water diverted outside the Basin must be for public water supply purposes, but Racine's own application to DNR reveals that every drop would go to a single private user--Foxconn Technology Group. Despite the request’s failure to meet the standards for an exception, DNR granted permission to Racine and Foxconn to move ahead.

DNR’s decision makes sense only to those who think that our state and federal laws do not apply to powerful special interests and giant corporations. If the decision is allowed to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent and will imperil the integrity and continued existence of the Compact. That’s why Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a legal challenge in April on behalf of six clients--League of Women Voters Lake Michigan Region, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Natural Resources Defense Council, and River Alliance of Wisconsin. As the challenge winds its way through the legal process, we ask for your continued financial support so that we may continue to work on your behalf.

DNR’s mistake must be corrected to defend the Great Lakes Compact and to protect our magnificent Great Lakes in the near and distant future. Thank you for standing together with MEA to protect the waters of this vital economic and ecological resource and to ensure that our state and federal laws are applied to everyone, even those with the most money and power.

MEA staff and supporters explain the challenge at a press conference earlier this year

photo: MEA staff attorneys discuss the legal challenge at a press conference earlier this year

/ tagged: great lakes