The waters and the water-dependent resources of the Great Lakes Basin are precious public natural resources, shared and held in trust by the Great Lakes States and Provinces. As trustees of the Basin's natural resources, we, the Great Lakes Governors, in cooperation with the Great Lakes Premiers of Ontario and Quebec, have a shared duty to protect, conserve and manage the Great Lakes waters and ecosystem.
We, the Great Lakes Governors, take our authority as stewards of the Great Lakes very seriously and have been vigilant in ensuring the protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem. In exercising our authority, our primary goal is the protection of the integrity of the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes ecosystem.
We have, in cooperation with the Great Lakes Premiers of Ontario and Quebec, effectively exercised our authority under the Great Lakes Charter of 1985, a good faith agreement to collectively manage the Great Lakes and its ecosystem. We have abided by its prior notice and consultation process on proposals for diversions and consumptive uses of Great Lakes water.
In addition, we have effectively exercised our authority under Section 1109 of the U.S. Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (WRDA). New bulk exports or diversions of Great Lakes water from the Great Lakes Basin cannot occur in the United States without the unanimous approval of the Great Lakes Governors. There have been three proposals to divert water from the Great Lakes since the passage of the WRDA, none of which was for bulk export. The review of each of these proposals took a minimum of one year in order to assess their potential impact on the ecosystem. Two proposals were approved with conditions that ensure the on-going protection of the Great Lakes, and one proposal was not approved.
There are no proposals to export Great Lakes water at this time nor do we anticipate any being submitted within the next year. Management of the Great Lakes ecosystem confronts us with new and ongoing challenges, including the bulk export of water. We must continually identify ways to secure the protection of the resource. We will review any proposals made to divert or export water from the Great Lakes with the same vigor as we have reviewed past proposals. We, the Great Lakes Governors, have the authority and we will exercise it appropriately to address any attempts to export bulk quantities of Great Lakes waters.
For the last fifteen years, we have followed a set of principles to guide us in developing, maintaining and strengthening the regional management regime for the Great Lakes ecosystem. We strongly believe that any change to the current management regime must be aligned with these principles:
It must protect the resource. Resource protection, restoration, and conservation must be the foundation for the legal standard upon which decisions concerning water withdrawals are based.
It must be durable. The framework for decisions must be able to endure legal challenges based upon, but not limited to, interstate commerce and international trade. It must be constitutionally sound on a bi-national basis, and the citizens of the Basin must support this framework.
It must be simple. The process for making decisions and resolving disputes should be straightforward, transparent and based on common sense.
It must be efficient. Implementation of the decision making process should engage existing authorities and institutions without necessitating the establishment of new and large bureaucracies. The decision making process should be flexible and responsive to the demands it will confront.
It must retain authority in the Basin. Decision-making must remain vested in those authorities, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers, who manage the resource on a day-to-day basis.
We encourage those who share our concern for the Great Lakes to join with us in abiding by these principles. We will continue to work with Ontario Premier Mike Harris and Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, state legislators, the Great Lakes U.S. Congressional delegation and the International Joint Commission to ensure that the authority to protect and manage the waters of the Great Lakes is strong, secure and retained within the Basin.
To assure the continued protection of the Great Lakes, today we pledge to:
Develop a new agreement, based upon the Great Lakes Charter and its principles, which will bind the Great Lakes States and Provinces more closely to collectively plan, manage and make decisions regarding the protection of the waters of the Great Lakes.
Develop a new common standard against which water projects will be reviewed. It will be based upon the standard that we have developed with the Premiers, but have never formally adopted: the protection of the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Secure funds to develop a better base of Great Lakes water use data. Without a good base of data, it is difficult to make sound decisions. We applaud the actions of The Great Lakes Protection Fund which has, by unanimous vote of its board at their last meeting in Chicago, agreed that funding the design and development of a water-use information system is the Fund's highest priority for the next year.
We, as stewards of twenty percent of the world's freshwater, will be vigilant in protecting, conserving, preserving and managing the Great Lakes. It is incumbent upon us, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers, to protect the waters that we all enjoy and are dependent upon.