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Negotiators reach deal on Great Lakes water protections

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States and provinces bordering the Great Lakes have reached an agreement to protect the resource. One provision would outlaw most diversions of Great Lakes water outside their drainage basin. (Image courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers)

Traverse City, Mich. — (AP) - Negotiators have reached a region-wide agreement aimed at preventing outsiders from raiding Great Lakes water and encouraging more efficient use of the precious resource closer to home.

After four years of talks, representatives of the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces bordering the lakes have submitted the final version of their plan to their governors and premiers. They are expected to sign it during a Dec. 13 meeting in Milwaukee.

The state legislatures and the U.S. Congress will be asked to approve a binding compact carrying out the accord. Ontario and Quebec will be expected to adopt its provisions separately.

"There were many difficult issues that required compromise, but a consensus has been reached," David Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said Friday.

It's better than the status quo, which means it's better for the Great Lakes.
- Cheryl Mendoza, Alliance for the Great Lakes

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the agreement, which would outlaw most diversions of Great Lakes water outside their drainage basin while making exceptions for communities and counties that straddle the watershed boundary.

Regulation of water use within the basin would be left up to each state and province. They would be required to adopt conservation programs.

They also would set their own policies on bottled water, a particularly contentious issue.

By ratifying the agreement, the region would be "putting our own house in order and protecting the waters from ... diversions and misuse," said Molly Flanagan, a Great Lakes specialist with the National Wildlife Foundation.

Environmental and business interests made concessions to reach the deal, said Cheryl Mendoza, program manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

"It's better than the status quo, which means it's better for the Great Lakes," Mendoza said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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