CHICAGO – Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today helped kick off a 90-day public review period for documents created to update the way the Great Lakes and the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are managed and protected.
Gov. Blagojevich, a member of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said the draft protective measures, referred to as the Draft draft Annex Implementing Agreements, are the result of three years of efforts by the Governors ’ and Premiers’ staffs to address Great Lakes Basin protection issues ranging from water consumption to diversion. The Annex was an agreement to update the Great Lakes Charter of 1985 that was signed in 2001 by Governors in the Great Lake States and their Canadian counterparts, Premiers in Quebec and Ontario. During the review period that extends until October 19, the draft Annex Implementing Aagreements will be available for the public and all interested groups to read and make comments.
“More than 7 million people in northeastern Illinois rely on Lake Michigan for their daily water supply. These waters are important to the economy and transportation, as well as recreation. We must do everything we can to continue our united efforts to protect the Great Lakes,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We look forward to participating with the Council, the other Great Lakes states and our friends in Quebec and Ontario in this important process.”
Illinois is the only Great Lakes state with a significant diversion of water out of the Great Lakes Basin. In addition to providing water to more than half of the state’s residents, Lake Michigan provides a direct connection between the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway and the Illinois and Mississippi Waterway. The U.S. Supreme Court retains jurisdiction over Illinois' diversion, and the allocation of water from Lake Michigan is the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. As a pre-existing diversion, Illinois' continued use of water from Lake Michigan will not be subject to the new requirements of the proposed Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact. Current and future Illinois users of Lake Michigan water will only be subject to the existing Lake Michigan water allocation program administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Governor Blagojevich noted that Illinois has developed a comprehensive regulatory program to ensure the economical and efficient use of Lake Michigan water, which includes a water conservation program. In addition, Illinois and the public water supply systems in northeastern Illinois have spent tens of millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements to the water supply systems and at the Chicago waterfront to ensure the efficient use of Lake Michigan water and compliance with the consent decree.
“In recognition of the effectiveness of the systems we’ve put in place and the efforts we’ve undertaken, Illinois’ water use is not impacted by this agreement,” the Governor said.
The public comment period was simultaneously kicked off in each participating state and in Seattle, Washington, at the National Governors Association meeting by Ohio Governor Bob Taft. As chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Taft represents the eight Great Lakes Governors and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec who belong to the Council.
“This process has involved government experts, the environmental community, business, agriculture and other interests. However, the voice of the people is a critical component. Public input ensures the final product is reflective of everyone that uses and depends on this critical resource,” Taft said.
Once the 90-day period is complete and public comments have been taken into account, the agreements will be refined and presented to the Governors and Premiers for their final approval and signature.
Specific protective measures in the draft implementing agreements include:
· A commitment that conservation and information programs will be put in place and maintained in all the Great Lakes States, Ontario and Quebec;
· A commitment to use a uniform, resource-based decision making standard in evaluating future proposals for new or increased water uses;
· A commitment to a collective decision making process for future proposals for regionally significant new or increased water uses; and
· A requirement that all future new or increased diversions and regionally significant water uses in the Great Lakes Basin result in an improvement to the Basin’s ecosystem.
Many of the Great Lakes States and Provinces will hold public informational meetings between July 19 and Oct. 19 to allow the public to view and comment on the specifics of the draft implementing agreements. Illinois intends to hold a joint meeting with the Council of Great Lakes Governors in Chicago on Sept. 8 to obtain public comment. For more information, or to comment on the draft documents visit www.cglg.org.
The Council of Great Lakes Governors is a non-partisan partnership of the Governors of the eight Great Lakes States - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 1983, the region's Governors decided to join forces to create the Council and tackle the severe environmental and economic challenges then facing the citizens of their states. In recent years, the Canadian Premiers of Ontario and Quebec have joined with the Council Governors in advancing the high performance economy of the Great Lakes region.