Harrisburg, Pa. – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives today passed the Great Lakes Compact, a multi-state agreement through which the Great Lakes states would be able to manage future water withdrawals from Lake Erie and the Great Lakes basin.
House Bill 1705, formally known as the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, was introduced by Representative Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, who thanked the Pennsylvania Environmental Council for its support in remarks on the House floor.
“The Great Lakes Compact will be a significant step toward ensuring the long-term protection of the Great Lakes – a critical economic and community asset to northwestern Pennsylvania,” said Brian Hill, President and CEO PEC. “The long-standing bipartisan support for this collaborative agreement by both Governors Ridge and Rendell, as well as members of the General Assembly, demonstrates its significance to Pennsylvania. We commend members of the House, especially Representatives Patrick Harkins, John Hornaman (D-Erie), Curtis Sonney (R-Erie), and Bud George (D-Clearfield), for sponsoring and advancing this landmark legislation.”
The multi-state agreement creates a unified structure among the Great Lakes states for management of future water withdrawals outside of the Great Lakes basin. The Compact also requires states to adopt water conservation and efficiency measurers to help maintain the vitality of the Basin’s water supply.
“Of all the Great Lakes, Erie may be the most vulnerable to disruption because it has the smallest water volume and shallowest average depth,” noted Hill. “Even if water is withdrawn from Lake Superior north of Wisconsin, the water level will drop throughout the interconnected Great Lakes system. This could greatly disrupt the Erie harbor and all docks along the shore, with major economic implications, not to mention the significant harm to fish and other aquatic species in Lake Erie. It would be both an ecological and an economic calamity.”
Hill said such withdrawals represent “a significant threat as southern and western states already view the Great Lakes as key to their future community and economic development needs.”
Under both Governors, Pennsylvania negotiated with other Great Lake states, two Canadian Provinces, and representatives from business and industry, agriculture, environmental organizations, and other interests to establish the Great Lakes Compact. To date, Illinois and Minnesota have ratified the Great Lakes Compact, and legislation is pending in several other Great Lakes States.
“There is strong bipartisan support for this legislation in the General Assembly,” Hill said. “We urge the Senate to quickly advance House Bill 1705 to ensure the long-term protection of one of our most unique and valuable natural resources.”
The legislation now goes before the state Senate where Sen. Jane Earll (R-Erie) has had a positive interest in the proposal. After adoption in Pennsylvania, the Compact must still be ratified by all eight Great Lakes states and approved by the U.S. Congress to become operational.