Now that the Great Lakes compact has been approved by all eight states, attention is turning to Congress. I expect Congressional approval will happen sooner rather than later for several reasons. First, there is tremendous momentum behind the compact right now. The signings by the governors of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have focused the media’s and public’s attention to the Great Lakes (NPR had an excellent story on the compact on Morning Edition today). Equally important, the compact has attracted broad political support from both parties. This is due in part to the ongoing work of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. Executive Director David Naftzger and Program Director Pete Johnson have quietly and modestly shepherded the compact through the state legislatures, offering guidance, expertise, and a range of resources to build support. I’ve seen their work first hand, and I’m always impressed by their inclusive and patient approach (of course there is also a time for adversarial confrontation, but that’s left to other groups).
I expect the success of the Great Lakes compact in the state legislatures will be followed by a similar story in Congress. In the senate, the compact has the strong support of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), co-chairs of the Great Lakes Task Force. The Senate leadership will decide which committee will consider the compact, possibly Judiciary or Environmental & Public Works. In the House, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) will be a key sponsor, as the compact could be considered by the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (which Rep. Oberstar chairs) and/or the Judiciary Committee (chaired by Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, a Wayne State Law School alum). Already the compact enjoys broad bipartisan support in both houses, thanks in part to the work of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Great Lakes Task Force, and state and national environmental organizations. They’ve taken the compact this far, and I expect they’ll finish the job.