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Great Lakes Water Exports and Diversions: Annex 2001 and the Looming Environmental Battle

May 2002

Citation: ELR 10611

Author: Gary Ballesteros

On June 18, 2001, all eight governors of the Great Lakes states and the premiers of the two Canadian provinces bordering the Great Lakes basin gathered at the impressive Prospect Point in Niagara Falls to sign a sweeping joint declaration. Known as "Annex 2001," the document is a supplementary agreement to the Great Lakes Charter of 1985. But unlike the loose and informal charter, Annex 2001 commits this diverse and multipartisan group of political leaders to find a way to collectively manage the Great Lakes basin. These 10 jurisdictions have agreed to bind themselves together, before the year 2004 is finished, in a new water management union and to develop standards that will govern decisions on any requests to ship or divert Great Lakes water elsewhere.

Although the event in Niagara Falls received very little press attention, in many respects it signaled a truly remarkable development. First, it is a rare accomplishment when leaders from three U.S. political parties and two Canadian provinces can all agree on anything. But more than that, the regional nature of Annex 2001 is yet another indication that power is flowing out of Washington, D.C., and into the states. The federal government played virtually no role in developing and negotiating Annex 2001, even though the agreement involves a foreign nation. Instead, nearly the entire drama within the United States has played out in state capitols and in governors' mansions.

Gary Ballesteros serves as the Vice President for Policy and a Member of the Board of Directors of the Lake Michigan Federation, the nation's oldest citizen action group designed to preserve and protect the Great Lakes. He is also the Assistant General Counsel for Environmental Affairs for Rockwell International Corporation in Milwaukee.

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