United States Senator
July 30, 2008
Statement of Senator Charles E. Schumer
July 30, 2008
"S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution Consenting To and Approving the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resource Compact"
Thank you, Senator Feingold, for holding this hearing today. I think I speak for all of us in New York when I say that we are very excited that the Great Lakes Compact is coming before Congress for ratification. This has been a long process, and I want to commend the members of the Great Lakes Commission for their dedication to protecting this amazing natural resource. I would particularly like to thank Senators Levin and Voinovich for their hard work on this issue.
The Great Lakes are one of the most significant resources America has. This system of lakes is a huge economic driver and is absolutely critical to our health and environment. The Lakes provide jobs, transportation, and inexpensive hydroelectric energy. One study by the EPA estimated that in 1995, over 10% of all jobs in the United States and Canada were directly supported by the Great Lakes. Tourism and recreation on the Lakes also contribute billions of dollars to the economy every year.
Healthy lakes are essential to the continued health of our people, environment, and economy. If increased diversions away from the Great Lakes lead to dropping water levels, we will see huge economic losses in shipping and hydroelectric power generation. And we are already seeing the impact of changing water levels on ecosystems in New York. Many of our coastal wetlands have disappeared or been overrun by invasive species as lake levels have changed over the years. This has been a huge blow to the recreational fishing industry, which relies on the wetlands as spawning habitat.
The coming years will present ever more demands on the Great Lakes - more people, new types of manufacturing, new energy needs. We don't know what these changes will mean for the Lakes, but we do know how important it is to keep them healthy.
That is why I am strongly in favor of the Compact, which will take important steps to safeguard the long-term health of this vital resource. Congress should ratify this Compact as soon as possible.
Thank you, Senator Feingold, for the opportunity to speak today. And again, thank you to Senators Levin and Voinovich for their strong leadership on this and so many issues that are vital to the Great Lakes.