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Report shows mixed compliance with Great Lakes pact

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A five-year agreement among the states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region to protect water resources has hit its half-way point.

The National Wildlife Federation released a report yesterday assessing how well the states are doing in meeting the goals of the Great Lakes compact.

It says all eight states adjoining the lakes have missed at least one deadline for improving water conservation and efficiency. But some have made more progress than others. Martha Foley has more.

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Sara Gosman, author of the report, said the Compact is supposed to prevent water diversions and excessive water withdrawals from the Lakes.    

Each state should have created a water conservation program to start regulating water usage by now, Gosman said, but New York’s program is still awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature.

"Because the state waited for that process, the state does not have a conservation program in place," she said. "And the deadline for that program to be in place was 2010.  So, one of the things that I discuss in the report is that New York needs to move fast now to get its conservation program in place."

Gosman said the guidelines in the New York program are consistent with the spirit and letter of the Great Lakes compact but some of the other states aren’t doing as well: Ohio’s standards are much less rigorous than New York’s and that could affect New York directly.

Kristy Meyer is with the Ohio Environmental Council.  She says the Lake Erie shoreline in Ohio is already clogged with algae blooms, and northern New Yorkers should be concerned about Ohio’s lax standards.

"As we see more and more withdrawals that are uncontrolled in Ohio, it could mean more harmful algal blooms coming down your way," Meyer said. "It could also mean less water for your hydropower and so forth."

The National Wildlife Federation said other states could sue Ohio to force compliance with the Compact.  She says otherwise one state could affect the environment and economy of the entire region.

New York plans to regulate water withdrawals of 100-thousand gallons per day or more.  Gosman says Ohio, on the other hand, has flouted the Compact. It plans to allow usage of five million gallons a day before regulating.

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