Great Lakes Compact

Lake Erie

In 2005, the U.S. Governors and Canadian Premiers of the Great Lakes states and provinces endorsed a precedent-setting agreement to protect and conserve the Great Lakes.

In the fall of 2008, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (known as “the Compact”) was ratified by all of the eight Great Lakes states and provinces, passed by Congress, and signed into law. There is a companion agreement within the Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

The Compact provides the most comprehensive water use protections for the Great Lakes in the last century. 

These agreements close the door on exporting our Great Lakes water outside the region and puts our own house in order by establishing protections against unsustainable water use here at home. The Compact allows the Great Lakes region to maintain control over Great Lakes water in the face of growing demands for water from across the U.S., Canada, and the world.

The Compact

For the first time, the Compact:

  • considers the Great Lakes, their tributaries, and groundwater to be one ecosystem subject to the same environmental standard;
  • establishes protection of the ecosystem and the economies that depend on the Great Lakes as a priority everywhere in the basin;
  • ensures that every Great Lakes state and territory will have the same set of rational protections.

The Compact protects the Great Lakes from harm by implementing a strong and effective water management program. The enforceability of the Compact is what sets this agreement apart from other Great Lakes agreements. The Compact guarantees the long-term protection and sound management of Great Lakes water, ensuring that they are protected for generations to come.

Read the OEC's Great Lakes Compact Fact Sheet.

Current Status

After the Compact became U.S. law in 2008, each Great Lakes state was required to pass state legislation to implement the Compact agreement in their state. In the spring of 2012, the Ohio Legislature drafted and passed legislation (House Bill 473) that laid the framework for how Ohio would implement the Compact agreement and water management program.

OEC opposed the legislation due to three significant outstanding flaws:

  • Rolled back protections for Ohio’s rivers and streams leaving spawning areas for walleye and steelhead trout at risk for habitat degradation, by ignoring adverse impacts to inland streams and only considering impacts to Lake Erie as a whole;
  • Locked anglers, boaters and swimmers out of the courthouse by limiting appeal rights to only those citizens with a direct economic or property interest;
  • Put Lake Erie and Ohio’s streams at risk of reduced stream flows, increased concentration of nutrients and pollutions, and loss of walleye and steelhead spawning areas by setting water use limits based on 90 day averages, not actual daily withdrawals.

Despite only receiving support from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Legislature passed the bill and Governor Kasich signed it into law. Read the OEC's press release.

The bill became effective September 4, 2012. However, this is not the end.

Additional work on the Compact continues as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) must now hammer out all of the rules that make up a regulatory program. ODNR will be convening two advisory committees to assist them in the development of rules that will govern the water management program.

Additional Links

History of the Compact in Ohio

Round One

In spring 2011, Senator Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) and Representative Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) introduced legislation (Senate Bill 170 and House Bill 231), backed by big business, to implement the programs within the Great Lakes Compact. This legislation, which is required under federal law, is supposed to sustain water supplies for the five Great Lakes and the rivers, streams and ground water that drains into the Lakes. 

Despite the fact that these pieces of legislation do little to protect the needs of all water users, both the House and Senate passed the legislation

In July, 2011, in recognition of the importance of the Great Lakes and the woeful inadequacy of these bills, Governor Kasich vetoed this harmful legislation. Read the OEC's press release.

Round Two

In spring of 2012, Representative Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) again introduced a piece of legislation to implement the Great Lakes Compact programs (House Bill 473). While an improvement over the first bill introduced by Rep. Wachtmann and later vetoed by Governor Kasich, HB 473 retained three significant flaws.  

 OEC opposed the legislation due to the following significant flaws:

  • Rolled back protections for Ohio’s rivers and streams leaving spawning areas for walleye and steelhead trout at risk for habitat degradation, by ignoring adverse impacts to inland streams and only considering impacts to Lake Erie as a whole;
  • Locked anglers, boaters and swimmers out of the courthouse by limiting appeal rights to only those citizens with a direct economic or property interest;
  • Put Lake Erie and Ohio’s streams at risk of reduced stream flows, increased concentration of nutrients and pollutions, and loss of walleye and steelhead spawning areas by setting water use limits based on 90 day averages, not actual daily withdrawals.

Read the OEC's press release.

H.B. 473 received strong opposition from environmental, sportsmen, and recreation organizations, scientists, and citizens. Additionally, concern was raised by Senator Voinovich and former Governor Taft, both of whom were involved in the original passage of the Great Lakes Compact Agreement. The concerns raised by Senator Voinovich and former Governor Taft were never addressed by the Legislature. The only support for the bill came from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.