Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

November 22, 2007

Status on legislative passage of the Great Lakes Compact – Nov 2007

On December 13, 2005, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers signed agreements at the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ (CGLG) Leadership Summit that would provide protections for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact won’t take effect until it is endorsed by the region’s eight states and then ratified by Congress.

Changes since May update:

  • Illinois Governor Blagojevich signed the Illinois legislation on August 17 becoming the second state to sign on to the Compact.
  • New York Senate bill 4324 passed July 16
  • Pennsylvania House bill 1705 introduced

Status by State:

Ohio and Wisconsin opposition to the Compact comes from a provision that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in “public trust” — see Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag:

  • Private property owners own groundwater beneath their land.
  • States might give up their 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.
  • Lets citizens sue government agencies over alleged violations, such as permitting excessive water withdrawals.

The pact has had little impact in Pennsylvania, where the only part of the state adjacent to the Great Lakes is a 40-mile stretch of Lake Erie frontage in the far northwestern corner.

On the Canadian side:

  • Legislation to strengthen the protection of water in the Great Lakes will be introduced Tuesday, April 3, in the Ontario legislature.
  • Quebec’s National Assembly has already ratified the agreement, but hasn’t yet updated its water use laws.

For information on the Compact: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

Source: CGLG State Legislative Activity to Enact the Compact

May 31, 2007

Bill to protect Great Lakes water passes final vote in Ontario legislature

The Chronicle Journal (Thunder Bay, Ontario) carries this update on the legislative process within Ontario to pass the Great Lakes Agreement:

A bill to protect Great Lakes water from being sold or shipped across the continent passed its final hurdle in the Ontario legislature Thursday, as all three parties voted unanimously to pass it into law.

Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay called it “a very important accomplishment,” as Ontario has taken a step toward implementing a deal signed with Quebec and eight U.S. states to institute stronger protections for Great Lakes water.

The international agreement seeks to ban transfers of water outside the Great Lakes basin to protect against other jurisdictions trying to access the resource.

Ontario’s bill also creates a new conservation charge for companies that draw a profit by tapping into the province’s water supply.

Most environmental groups applauded the government for the bill, which they say is stronger than legislation being proposed in the United States.

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May 3, 2007

Status on legislative passage of the Great Lakes Compact – May 2007

On December 13, 2005, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers signed agreements at the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ (CGLG) Leadership Summit that would provide protections for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact won’t take effect until it is endorsed by the region’s eight states and then ratified by Congress.

Changes since April update:

  • Illinois Senate bill 0050 passed April 25
  • Michigan House bill 4343 introduced
  • New York House and Senate bills introduced, House bill passes April 23.

Status by state:

Ohio and Wisconsin opposition to the Compact comes from a provision that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in “public trust” — see Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag:

  • Private property owners own groundwater beneath their land.
  • States might give up their 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.
  • Lets citizens sue government agencies over alleged violations, such as permitting excessive water withdrawals.

The pact has had little impact in Pennsylvania, where the only part of the state adjacent to the Great Lakes is a 40-mile stretch of Lake Erie frontage in the far northwestern corner.

On the Canadian side:

  • Legislation to strengthen the protection of water in the Great Lakes will be introduced Tuesday, April 3, in the Ontario legislature.
  • Quebec’s National Assembly has already ratified the agreement, but hasn’t yet updated its water use laws.

For information on the Compact: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

Source: CGLG State Legislative Activity to Enact the Compact

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April 10, 2007

Great Lakes Agreement Has Its Own Leaks

Preventing long-range diversions out of the Great Lakes basin is critical for the protection of the lakes and their dependent ecosystems and that is what the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Sustainable Water Resources Agreement seeks to do as it winds its way through the legislative process — the pact is between Ontario, Quebec and the eight U.S. Great Lakes’ states.

But even though the proposed legislation bans diversions out of the basin, it still permits large-scale diversions between individual Great Lakes within the basin. Diverting water out of the Upper Great Lakes into the Lower Great Lakes will only compound the effects of lowered water levels of the Upper Great Lakes, such as Lake Huron/Michigan.

Two examples:

  • The Regional Municipality of York, Ontario wants to build a pipeline to divert waste water from growing communities in the Lake Huron watershed to Lake Ontario.
  • Waterloo, Ontario says it needs to divert water from Lake Huron because it is running out of local water supplies.

For Lake Huron/Michigan, the impacts of the in-basin diversion would be just as harmful as if the water was being diverted outside the Great Lakes Basin.

For information on the Compact: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

For information on the progress of the legislative process see the April update.

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April 6, 2007

How Michigan intends to control withdrawals

Upper Michigan’s largest daily newspaper, The Mining Journal, provides an update on efforts to devising a method to help determine safe water withdrawal rates:

How much is too much?

The Groundwater Conservation Advisory Council (GWCAC) is developing computer models that would measure stream flow rates and other hydrological characteristics near places where big users want to pump.

‘‘It should be kind of an education tool, so a user can put a water withdrawal where it would have the least impact on natural resources and neighbors,’’ said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council, a member of the panel.

Michigan in 2006 became the last Great Lakes state to enact a law governing large water withdrawals. But officials say its groundwater council is setting the pace for determining when a withdrawal would have an ‘‘adverse environmental impact.’’

The computer models being developed … would provide early warning that a site might need closer inspection to determine whether it’s suitabile for large pumping operations.

The models would estimate the effect on stream flow, water volume, groundwater connections and other factors, said David Hamilton, water management chief in the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The system won’t help restore waterways that are already degraded. ‘‘It’s aimed at minimizing change from here forward,’’ Seelbach said.

The council is scheduled to report to the Legislature by July.

Michigan industries, municipalities, farms and other businesses pumped about 730 million gallons of groundwater daily in 2000 (266 billion gallons annually). That amount represented about 2.6% of an estimated 27 billion gallons of water that flows each day into underground aquifers.

Related links: MSU’s Groundwater Mapping Project

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April 3, 2007

Ontario to tax water bottlers

The Toronto Star carries this story on the Province’s plan to charge companies that bottle large amounts of water taken from the Great Lakes:

The province imposes only a tiny charge for its mandatory permits for taking large amounts of water. The … proposed legislation does not spell out exactly what constitutes large amounts of bottled water.

The industry insists it’s not a threat to the province’s groundwater supply and complains it is being unfairly singled out.

Although consumption of bottled water in Canada jumped nearly 20 per cent between 2004 and 2005, provincial statistics show bottlers take less than two-tenths of 1 per cent of all the water extracted from Ontario’s lakes, rivers and underground streams, the association stated in a report last year.

“The amount of water that we’re using as an industry is equal to the amount 10 golf courses use in a year,” Griswold [Elizabeth Griswold, executive director of the Canadian Bottled Water Association] said.

The legislation would also enshrine into law a deal signed in December 2005 by Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states to strengthen restrictions on bulk water exports out of the Great Lakes. It’s aimed mainly at preventing states in the south and Midwest – whose water supplies are running low – from tapping into the lakes.

For an update on where the Great Lakes Compact and Agreement are in the legislative process, see this prior post.

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Status on legislative passage of the Great Lakes Compact – April 2007

UPDATE: see the May 2007 update

On December 13, 2005, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers signed agreements at the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ (CGLG) Leadership Summit that would provide protections for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact won’t take effect until it is endorsed by the region’s eight states and then ratified by Congress.

Changes since March update:

  • Michigan House bill 4336 introduced
  • Illinois House bill 0375 passed March 29
  • Added update on Canadian legislative progress

Status by state:

  • Illinois – HB 0375 passed March 29, SB 0050
  • Indiana – SB 0022, SB 0515
  • Michigan – HB 4336, SB 212
  • Minnesota – HF 110 passed February 1, SF 38 passed February 15, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the legislation next to the Duluth harbor on Lake Superior on February 20.
  • Ohio – no activity
  • Pennsylvania – no activity
  • New York – no activity
  • Wisconsin – no activity

New York, Ohio and Wisconsin opposition to the Compact comes from a provision that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in “public trust” — see Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag:

  • Private property owners own groundwater beneath their land.
  • States might give up their 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.
  • Lets citizens sue government agencies over alleged violations, such as permitting excessive water withdrawals.

The pact has had little impact in Pennsylvania, where the only part of the state adjacent to the Great Lakes is a 40-mile stretch of Lake Erie frontage in the far northwestern corner.

On the Canadian side:

  • Legislation to strengthen the protection of water in the Great Lakes will be introduced Tuesday, April 3, in the Ontario legislature.
  • Quebec’s National Assembly has already ratified the agreement, but hasn’t yet updated its water use laws.

For information on the Compact: Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

Source: CGLG State Legislative Activity to Enact the Compact

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March 30, 2007

Great Lakes Compact Tests Regional Unity

The Associated Press syndicated this story on the problems facing the Great Lakes States as they debate the compact:

As governors of the Great Lakes states debated how to prevent outsiders from staking a claim to their precious water, advocates warned that without a deal, the region would be at the mercy of an increasingly powerful — and thirsty — Sun Belt.

But since the eight governors shook hands on a water compact in December 2005, the loudest complaints have surfaced within the Great Lakes region itself, where people find it easier to say “no” to Arizona than to restrain their own appetites.

What many don’t like is that the compact also instructs the Great Lakes states to regulate their water use and adopt conservation plans, in keeping with regional standards. The rules could affect virtually anything requiring lots of water, from sewage treatment to irrigation to manufacturing cars.

Read the whole article for a good summary of the issues each State faces.

See this prior post on the Status of Legislation Passage of the Great Lakes Compact.

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