Great Lakes

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The Great Lakes: 

The Great Lakes Recent Efforts to Establish a Water Resources Compact

The Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River System: 

The Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River System World’s largest body of freshwater (1/5 of the world’s surface freshwater) Two nations, 8 states, 2 provinces 295,000 square miles, 100,000 miles of navigable water, more than 33 million people

Law of the Great Lakes 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty : 

Law of the Great Lakes 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty -”navigation of all navigable boundary waters shall forever continue free and open….” -”any interference with or diversion from their natural channel of such waters on either side of the boundary, resulting in any injury on the other side of the boundary, shall give rise to the same rights and entitle the injured party to the same legal remedies as if such injury took place in the country where such diversion or interference occurs;….”

Boundary Waters Treaty : 

Boundary Waters Treaty “boundary waters … shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.” Establish an International Joint Commission with jurisdiction over cases involving the use or obstruction or diversion of the boundary waters; each nation has equal and similar rights in the use of boundary waters

1955 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries: 

1955 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries Created the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Response to sea lamprey Develops coordinated programs of research and recommends measures to promote productivity of Great Lakes fish populations and to control and eliminate sea lamprey populations.

1955 Great Lakes Basin Compact: 

1955 Great Lakes Basin Compact To promote integrated development, use, and conservation of the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin Established the Great Lakes Commission Ratified by 5 of the 8 states in 1955 (now all states; Ontario & Quebec associate members) Congress provided limited consent in 1968

1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: 

1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Emerged from shared recognition of serious problems in Lake Erie; commitment to work together to improve water quality of the Great Lakes Supplemented in 1978 with inclusion of provisions to address toxic pollutants 1987 Protocol focusing on “areas of concern” Implemented by the IJC

Ecosystem Charter for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin: 

Ecosystem Charter for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin Good faith agreement among signatories, first promulgated in 1994 Statement of shared principles and objectives for an ecosystem approach to management Under auspices of Great Lakes Commission

1985 Great Lakes Charter: 

1985 Great Lakes Charter Good faith agreement between Great Lakes governors and premiers to work together to protect the integrity of the Great Lakes Primary purpose: “to conserve the levels and flows of the Great Lakes and their tributary and connecting waters” Statement of principles of water management


Charter-cont’d Principle IV: Prior Notice and Consultation It is the intent of the signatory States and Provinces that no Great Lakes State or Province will approve or permit any major new or increased diversion or consumptive use of the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin without notifying and consulting with and seeking the consent and concurrence of all affected Great Lakes States and Provinces.


Charter-cont’d Established a Water Resources Management Committee (appointed by governors and premiers) with additional membership from national governments/IJC, etc. Defined “major” as 5,000,000 gallons per day or more Established process for objection to proposed use in state/province permitting process

1986 Water Resources Development Act: 

1986 Water Resources Development Act 1962d-20. Prohibition on Great Lakes Diversions -encourages the Great Lakes states, in consultation with Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, to develop and implement a mechanism that provides a common conservation standard concerning withdrawal and use of water from Great Lakes Basin -prohibits any diversion of water for use outside the basin unless approved by governors of each basin state

The Nova Permit: 

The Nova Permit On March 31, 1998 the Ontario Environment Ministry issued a five year "water-taking" permit to a private company, the Nova Group of Sault Ste. Marie, allowing withdrawal by tanker of up to 600 billion litres a year of Lake Superior water. Cancelled permit in July but kicked off review by IJC and negotiations under auspices of Council of Great Lakes Governors

The Great Lakes Charter Annex: 

The Great Lakes Charter Annex June 18, 2001 supplementary agreement to Great Lakes Charter (governors & premiers) Reaffirmed Charter principles Committed to “develop and implement a new common, resource-based conservation standard and apply it to new water withdrawal proposals from the Waters of the Great Lakes Basin.”


Annex-cont’d Principles for the new standard: -preventing or minimizing Basin water loss through return flow and implementation of environmentally sound and economically feasible water conservation measures; -no significant adverse individual or cumulative impacts to the quantity or quality of the waters and water-dependent natural resources of the basin; -an improvement to the waters and water-dependent natural resources of the basin; and -compliance with state, provincial, federal, intnat’l laws

Water Management Working Group: 

Water Management Working Group Formed to implement Annex Advisory committee of stakeholders Produced draft compact and agreement; released on July 19, 2004 90 day public comment period with dozens of meetings throughout basin

Draft Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact: 

Draft Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact Establishes a Compact Council (designee of each of basin state governors) with authority to review large diversions Requires each state to establish program meeting the same minimum standards for reviewing all other withdrawal proposals

Compact Council: 

Compact Council Reviews all diversions above one mgd and consumptive uses above 5 mgd Diversion defined as transfer of water from Great Lakes basin to another or between watersheds within the basin Consumptive use defined as that portion of water withdrawn from the basin that is lost or otherwise not returned to basin

Compact Council-cont’d: 

Compact Council-cont’d Unanimous vote to approve diversions Supermajority (6-2) to approve consumptive uses

Approval conditions: 

Approval conditions -need for withdrawal cannot reasonably be avoided through more efficient use of existing supplies; -limited to quantities considered reasonable for proposed use; -all withdrawals (less consumption) returned to source watershed; -No significant individual or cumulative adverse impacts;


Conditions-cont’d -Incorporates environmentally sound and economically feasible conservation measures; -makes an improvement to physical, chemical, or biological integrity of water/resources of basin; and -complies with all applicable laws.

Application to states: 

Application to states States required to regulate all withdrawals and consumptive uses below Council thresholds -states have 10 years to put program in place -not required to regulate withdrawals for in-basin use less than 100,000 gpd (averaged over 120 day period) -improvement standard does not apply

Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement: 

Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement A good faith agreement involving the 8 states and the two provinces Commits all parties to using the same standards in authorizing uses of the Great Lakes Basin water Establishes a Great Lakes Water Resources Regional Body for oversight Fleshes out the compact provisions in a document that can be more easily revised or changed

Remaining Issues: 

Remaining Issues Authorizing diversions Consumptive use vs. withdrawal triggers for review thresholds; quantities Averaging period for water use Conservation requirements Improvement requirement Role of tribes/First Nations

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