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Higgins Calls for Stop to Plan that Siphons Water from Great Lakes

7/13/2011- Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, sent a letter urging Ohio Governor John Kasich to veto legislation in his state that would allow businesses to remove 5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie.  

Higgins, whose district borders Lake Erie, warned tapping into the Great Lakes would be devastating environmentally and economically, “The Great Lakes remain one of the most vital natural resources to not just our region but our nation.  The Lakes represent the largest surface source of fresh water on this planet and must not be taken for granted.  Furthermore, we are seeing, with the transformation of Western New York’s waterfront, the great economic opportunities made possible for regions bordering the Lakes.” 

Higgins further questioned the action from an ethical and legal standpoint as the effort may violate the Great Lakes Compact approved by Congress in 2008.  The Compact is an agreement between the Governors of New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec which ban new diversions of water from the Great Lakes basin and provide for coordinated conservation, use and data collection efforts.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 30 million people live in the Great Lakes basin.  The Great Lakes contain 95% of the America’s fresh water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America.  The Brookings Institute found that Buffalo would see economic gains between $600 million to $1.1 billion if the Great Lakes are restored.

Below is a copy of Congressman Higgins’ letter to Governor Kasich:

July 13, 2011
 
The Honorable John Kasich
Governor, State of Ohio
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
 
Dear Governor Kasich:
 
It is with great concern that I read in the Buffalo News this morning of legislation that has been approved by the Ohio state legislature to permit businesses to remove 5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie.  
 
Western New York shares Lake Erie with your state, and the consequences of such large scale removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin could have devastating environmental and economic effects in my community.  Water levels in Lake Erie are already on the decline, and the additional large scale removal of water will lead to algae blooms and reduced water quality, negatively impact aquatic wildlife and the associated fishing industry, and reduce recreational boating and commercial shipping activity. Moreover, it will threaten the progress we are making in Buffalo toward reclaiming our waterfront as an engine of recreational and economic activity.
 
In New York we are about to adopt a far more reasonable limit by requiring a permit for the withdrawal of 100,000 gallons per day.  The Ohio bill, if adopted, would violate the spirit of the historic Great Lakes Compact and force a race to the bottom among the eight signatory states, which will result in an accelerated level of diversions and further reduce the water level in Lake Erie beyond the impact of Ohio businesses.  Such an outcome is unacceptable.
 
I urge you to conclude, as have your predecessors Governors Bob Taft and George Voinovich, that this proposal poses a danger to the health of our greatest regional asset, the Great Lakes, and I urge you to veto this dangerous legislation.
 
                                                                                Sincerely, 
 
 
                                                                                Brian Higgins
                                                                                Member of Congress