WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House committee approved a compact Wednesday to prevent the diversion of water from the Great Lakes, one of the world's largest sources of fresh water.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the compact, building momentum in Congress for the Great Lakes agreement.
"The compact will ensure that our Great Lakes will remain stabile and vibrant for generations to come," said Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and the committee's chairman.
The agreement was negotiated by eight Great Lakes states and bars countries or remote states from tapping into the lakes from their natural drainage basin with rare exceptions.
It also requires the states to regulate their own large-scale water uses and promote conservation.
"The sooner this compact can be ratified by the Congress, the sooner it will become effective and the greater protection will be given" to the lakes, said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
The Senate Judic iary Committee was expected to hold a hearing on the compact later Wednesday as lawmakers hope to act on the interstate compact before the end of the year.
State leaders in the region developed the plan amid concerns that the worldwide freshwater shortage would lead thirsty regions to attempt to access the lakes.
Governors in the region negotiated the compact for more than four years before reaching an agreement in December 2005. Michigan was the last of the eight states to approve the pact earlier this month.President Bush has urged Congress to approve the agreement, and both major presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have said they support the compact.
House and Senate leaders from the region have said they are not aware of any significant opposition to the plan, which is common among states. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia currently belong to at least one interstate water compact, and many state s belong to more than one.