Gov. Jim Doyle announced a compromise had been reached in the Great Lakes Compact Wednesday. And state Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, helped lead the compromise negotiations.
"When the Assembly began our review of the compact, there were a lot of naysayers who said we did not want to pass the compact," Gunderson said in a statement. "But, I promised from the beginning of this process that we would pass a strong and fair compact that did not place Wisconsin at an economic disadvantage to our neighboring states."
A special session of the legislature will begin April 17 to vote on the deal, Doyle said.
Lawmakers have been at loggerheads over the treaty, a proposed agreement among states surrounding the Great Lakes to prevent outside states from taking water. Republicans were complaining the compact's language was rushed and gave too much power to other Great Lakes governors.
According to Mike Bruhn, spokesman for Gunderson, the compromise contains some important alterations. The state would not gain new authority over groundwater, which he said would have been a huge change in property rights. The altered version also removed the requirement for a mandatory statewide water conservation program and gave a legislature committee oversight of the governor's vote on the council.
"What this bill is supposed to be about is the Great Lakes and protecting that resource for future generations," Bruhn said. "A lot of hard work was put into getting to this point."
Wisconsin's Democratic-controlled state Senate ratified the treaty in early March, days before the end of the legislative session. But Republicans who run the state Assembly balked, saying they didn't have enough time to review the document before the end of the session.
Gunderson, chairman of the Assembly's natural resources committee, held a hearing on the compact but refused to let his panel vote to move it to the full Assembly. The session ended without any action on the compact in that house.
Local lawmakers said they were glad an agreement had been reached, although they did not agree with every provision.
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, said it was an acceptable compromise, but he does not agree with the fact that a single Great Lakes governor can block any request to use lake water.
Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said he was glad there is a chance the compact will pass this session, but he was waiting to see the details of the compromise before he judged its merits. One thing he was concerned about was if Gunderson was seeking a determination in the compact on a diversion for Waukesha.
"My opinion is that anybody who wants a ban and diversion should go to regional review," Mason said. "We'll be asking some hard questions once we see the language."
Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, said he was satisfied with the compromise language.
"I think that it's wiser to try to get the Republican-controlled Assembly on board," Lehman said. "This is most likely the one thing that people are going to look back at 20 years from now."
Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and New York have signed the treaty into law. So have Quebec and Ontario. All the Great Lakes states and Congress must ratify the treaty before it can take effect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.