register viewpoint|Get together to protect lakes

Should states forego their own interests to ratify the Great Lakes Compact? Send us a letter; see the Forum Rules on this page.
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010

 

Should states forego their own interests to ratify the Great Lakes Compact? Send us a letter; see the Forum Rules on this page.

It’s a vital part of the globe’s climate and an essential part of the economy for an entire region. We work in them, we play in them, we drink from them, we have recently begun to stop dumping our garbage into them. They’re the Great Lakes, and their protection is of necessity the epitome of the regionalism that must dominate our thinking if we are to survive. But the greatest threat to the recently developed Great Lakes Compact may be the states and provinces that

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The Compact includes such measures as pollution control and cleanup, resource management (read: water and fish) and the favorite: Tight controls on shipping Great Lakes water to other, water-starved regions such as the Southwest.

Now the compact is before legislators in the capitals of the states and Canadian provinces that border the lakes, and each state’s or province’s own interests are coming to the fore.

In part, that’s as it should be. After all, we elect state legislators to look after the interests of our state. However, one state’s interest may be at odds with another’s, or with the Compact as a whole. One state may see an economic benefit in selling water to the Southwest, and another downstream may wonder what that will do to its part of the Lakes.

And if the scientists are right and the global warming that’s supposed to raise the world’s oceans paradoxically lowers the lakes because there’ll be less water draining into them, the resource will become scarcer. Less to drink, less to moderate the climate, less ability to ship the iron ore, coal and grain carried in the holds of lake freighters, which lose hundreds of tons of carrying capacity for each inch the lake levers are down.

It’s an axiom that a certain noxious substance flows downhill; substitute the word "downstream" and you see how one state’s actions may negate part of the compact and hurt another state.

That’s because of one other truism about the Great Lakes: The water in them, the fish in them, the pollutants in them, the invasive species such as zebra mussels and round gobies