Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

February 25, 2007

Great Lakes Compact — Michigan not leading the way

Filed under: Great Lakes Compact,Great Lakes Issues,Michigan — nemo @ 7:34 am

The Oakland Press (MI) carries this editorial on the Great Lakes Compact now that Minnesota has passed it into law. No other compact member states – including Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio – have passed bills adopting the compact. Ontario and Quebec are also signatories to the compact.

The Great Lakes are already victims of invasive foreign species such as the zebra mussel and the goby. An Asian carp species is held at bay only by an electric barrier in southern Lake Michigan. In recent years, we have seen water levels in the lakes drop precipitously, wreaking economic havoc on the boating and recreation industries. Scientists and climatologists can debate the cyclical nature of those fluctuations, but the value of the lakes to the state and the region is indisputable.

Michigan has lost a seat in Congress, and if population trends hold, we stand to lose another in a few years. Simultaneously, populations and congressional representation in water-hungry states such as Arizona and Nevada continue to grow. The compact is essential because we may face a time when states in the Southwest seek diversion of Great Lakes water for drinking or irrigation.

Only about 7 percent of Minnesota’s land mass lies within the Lake Superior watershed. But 100 percent of Michigan’s land mass lies within the Great Lakes watershed. If any state stands to lose the most from water diversion, it is Michigan. The state should be at the forefront of this effort, yet the Legislature let a bill adopting the compact die in 2006.

Minnesota already had stricter regulations on water use and only about 15 percent of its area is part of a Great Lakes watershed. For a review of the issues some of these other states are debating see this post: Ohio approval of water pact faces new snag.

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