Presidential candidates (and senators) John McCain and Barack Obama have found at least one issue to agree on – protecting the Great Lakes with the Great Lakes compact. Senator Obama’s support is no surprise, as the Democratic presidential hopeful is from Chicago and Illinois was one of the first states to approve the compact. Senator McCain’s support is more noteworthy, as the Republican nominee comes from Arizona – a state constantly struggling to meet its water needs.
Senator McCain was quoted in an AP story as saying: “I’ve often had dreams of giant pipe that ended up in my backyard in Phoenix. But the fact is that any decision concerning water should be made by the people who own the water. That’s the states.” The comments are almost identical to his earlier statements made in a Wisconsin TV news interview, in which McCain based his support of the Great Lakes compact on his general preference for state control of water resources.
Senator Obama made his support clear in an official press release on the Great Lakes compact, stating “The Great Lakes are an international treasure and supply drinking water to almost 30 million people in our country. The Great Lakes Compact is an historic agreement to protect our Great Lakes from water diversions and exports. It is, perhaps, the most significant legal action to protect the Lakes in the last 100 years since the Boundary Waters Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. This Compact on managing Great Lakes water is essential for the environmental and economic health of the region. All eight Great Lakes states have approved the Compact and now it’s time for the Congress and the President to take action. The Compact should be quickly ratified. I will be an original co-sponsor of this legislation with Senator Carl Levin and Senator George Voinovich and will work across the aisle to pass this important bill. I am committed to working to fully implement this Compact to protect America’s truly Great Lakes.”
Skeptics might view both candidates’ support as a simple political calculation, since several Great Lakes swing states are key ‘must-wins’ to get to the White House. I think their support is more genuine and representative of the growing consensus around regional water protection efforts. Either way, it’s great to have both candidates on board for the Great Lakes compact.