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Doyle to sign pact to protect Great Lakes water today

Gov. Jim Doyle is expected to sign legislation Tuesday to strengthen protection for the Great Lakes.

Doyle plans to act on the bill during a ceremony on the Green Bay waterfront, according to a news release issued by his office this morning.

A coalition of lawmakers, environmental groups and local officials join him as he signs legislation designed to protect and preserve the Great Lakes.

The measure was approved by the legislature last week.

Eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian provincial premiers signed the compact in 2005 after four years of negotiations. They fear booming southwestern states will soon look to withdraw massive amounts of fresh water from the Great Lakes.

Under the compact, diverting water from the lakes' basin will be prohibited. Cities that straddle the basin's border, such as New Berlin, or lie within counties that straddle the basin's border, such as Waukesha, could apply for an exemption. State officials could approve or deny exceptions for straddling cities.

Any Great Lakes governor could block a diversion outside the basin as well as block an exemption for a city in a straddling county.

The compact also creates new guidelines for basin municipalities to withdraw water and encourages water conservation.

Federal law already allows any Great Lakes governor to veto any withdrawal but doesn't set out decision-making standards or criteria, as the compact does.

Michigan legislators unanimously approved the compact last week, but the legislation won't head to Gov. Jennifer Granholm until lawmakers can work out differences over water issues for other state lakes and waterways.

A key opponent to the compact in Ohio said he would withdraw his opposition to a House-passed bill this week.

Only Ohio and Pennsylvania haven't adopted the compact. All eight Great Lakes states must approve the compact, and it must be ratified by Congress, before it can take effect.