The Great Lakes Compact Council and the Great Lakes Regional Body are seeking public feedback on draft updates to the procedures for reviewing requests to divert water from the Great Lakes Basin. The compact is federal law that governs the use of water in the Great Lakes watershed. The compact council and regional body are accepting comments through June 21, at 4:30 p.m.
Under the compact, diversions of water out of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin are generally prohibited. However, the compact identifies limited circumstances under which diversion may be allowed. In some instances, before a diversion proposal can be approved, it must undergo review by the regional body and may require approval by the compact council. The draft updates are strictly procedural and would not modify the compact’s basic terms.
The compact council is composed of the governors of the eight states that border the Great Lakes. The regional body includes the eight governors on the council plus the premiers of Ontario and Quebec. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is Gov. Mark Dayton’s delegate to both groups and provides data and water management expertise to assist implementing the compact.
The effort to refine the procedures under the compact follows the states’ and provinces’ first experience reviewing a diversion request under the agreement. Reflecting on that experience and feedback from stakeholder groups, the states and provinces concluded that some aspects of the procedures should be clarified or refined.
Following discussions with key stakeholders and tribal interests, the states and provinces developed the draft updates that were released for public review May 22. The updates include these changes:
Expands opportunities for the public to participate at hearings and public meetings.
Acknowledges the special status of First Nations and federally recognized Tribes through separate meetings with them and granting standing to contest compact council decisions.
Identifies circumstances under which an additional public comment period would be offered between issuance of the regional body’s declaration of finding and the compact council’s final decision. Essentially, if the compact council views the regional body’s modifications to the applicant’s diversion proposal as substantial, the council would take public comment prior to making its final decision. The existing public comment opportunity prior to the regional body’s deliberations would remain.
After considering public input received by June 21, the regional body will revise the draft procedural updates this summer. The compact council will then consider the updates and decide whether some or all of them should be adopted through rulemaking.
The draft updates are available at www.glslcompactcouncil.org/PUT-DraftUpdates.aspx.