Higgins Wins Approval for Amendment Protecting Great Lakes from Future Attempts to Divert Water
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced approval of the Interior, Environment & Related Agencies Appropriations bill (H.R. 5538) which among other measures funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million and includes an amendment led by Higgins to protect against the diversion of water away from the Great Lakes.
Last month the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, which sits a few miles outside of the Great Lakes basin, won approval to withdraw water from Lake Michigan, with certain conditions. Higgins’ amendment tightens up the policy to help restrict further diversions.
In remarks on the House Floor Congressman Higgins stressed the importance of protecting this non-renewable freshwater resource, “Going forward, it will be important to ensure that the approval of this request does not set a precedent that will threaten to deplete this resource by encouraging further diversion requests that do not uphold the strict water management standards outlined in the compact.”
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Higgins, a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, added, “By prohibiting the use of funds by States to contravene the compact, Congress can send a clear message that it takes seriously the responsibility to protect the largest surface freshwater system in our Nation.”
Higgins' amendment was supported by Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“With the recent approval of the Waukesha diversion, it is critical that Congress make clear that the integrity of the Compact will be protected now and into the future,” said Brian Smith, Associate Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The need for a strong Compact is as important as ever, as our abundant freshwater resources are the envy of many who suffer from already strained, polluted, or disappearing water resources. We applaud Representative Higgins for his leadership to protect the integrity of the Great Lakes Compact, thus protecting this amazing resource for current and future generations.”
In a statement of support from the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Molly Flanagan writes, “The Great Lakes provide economic engines for our communities and recreational opportunities for families. They hold almost 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people. In order to protect this amazing resource, the Great Lakes Compact was adopted in 2008. It provides significant protections to Great Lakes water because it prohibits diversions of Great Lakes water, with limited exceptions, and requires each state to enact water management programs for in-basin water use. Your amendment is a good reminder of how important the Great Lakes Compact is to protecting this precious natural resource.”
“The Great Lakes are vast, but fragile, and are susceptible to water withdrawals and diversions, wrote National Wildlife Federation Policy Director Marc Smith. “It is important to ensure that this diversion approval with conditions is enforced and sets the right precedent. Therefore, we share your efforts to reinforce the strength of the Compact and protect the largest surface freshwater system in our country.”
Since 2010 over $40.4 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has been invested in projects that remediate, protect and improve Western New York waterways.