Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

February 19, 2007

Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag

From the Toledo Blade:

Minnesota on Thursday did what many thought Ohio would do: Become the first Great Lakes state to adopt a proposed compact for managing lake withdrawals on a regional basis.

Ohio could be poised to follow suit. But first, supporters may have to overcome a property-rights opposition movement [and] reaffirm the support of Ohio’s industry, which is lobbying to limit regulatory power.

State Sen. Tim Grendell said he will introduce a bill this week that would put a vote on hold for at least a year. He is calling for the creation of a joint legislative task force that would spend the rest of 2007 listening to what other Great Lakes states say about the proposal.

Wisconsin has a similar review under way, resulting recently in a 12-page document of concerns.

Opposition comes from a provision that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in “public trust”:

  • Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that private property owners own groundwater beneath their land.
  • Ohio might give up its sovereign right to state-owned water by agreeing to be part of a regional water board of eight states.
  • Criteria for water withdrawals should be made by state legislatures and not governors as in the Compact
  • Permits for withdrawals should be based on anticipated effects on watersheds, not on individual streams and tributaries within them.

Additional material: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources

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