Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

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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March 4, 2007

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

UPDATE: see the April 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 January update:

  • On February 20, Minnesota became the first state to pass the Compact. Minnesota already had stricter regulations on water use and only about 15 percent of its area is part of a Great Lakes watershed.
  • Michigan Senate bill 212 introduced

Status by state:

  • Illinois – HB 0375, SB 0050
  • Indiana – SB 0022, SB 0515
  • Michigan –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

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.

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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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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February 21, 2007

Minnesota is first to sign Great Lakes Compact

Filed under: Great Lakes Compact,Great Lakes News,Minnesota — nemo @ 1:46 pm

The Rochester (MN) Post Bulletin carries this article on Minnesota’s legislative passage of the Great Lakes Compact:

Minnesota became the first state to adopt what’s meant to be a multistate compact on Great Lakes water use on Tuesday when Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed legislation next to the Duluth harbor on Lake Superior.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact isn’t expected to have much effect on Minnesota since the state already has stricter regulations on water use and only about 15 percent of its area is part of a Great Lakes watershed.

The compact would require states to approve any major water diversion outside the Great Lakes watershed and regulate new commercial uses of water.

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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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February 18, 2007

Great Lakes Agreement may not go far enough

Filed under: Great Lakes Agreements,Great Lakes Compact — nemo @ 6:12 pm

Great Lakes legislation stirs controversy:

Legislation to protect Great Lakes water from being siphoned to jurisdictions not immediately surrounding the lakes is being finalized by Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states.

Intra-basin diversions, the legal transfer of Great Lakes water as long as it stays within the Great Lakes Basin, are not adequately addressed in the agreement, said Robert Wright, a lawyer with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

In a written submission to the Ontario government, Sierra argued that intra-basin transfers should only be allowed when there is an equal return flow of water to the original source.

Ontario is still working on the specifics it wants in its legislation, but Minister of Natural Resources David Ramsay said he doesn’t believe intra-basin transfers need to be outlawed.

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February 13, 2007

Ontario’s commitment to Great Lakes Agreement questioned

Hat tip: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper:

The public comment period on Ontario’s proposed amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act ends today. The amendments are supposed to make [into] law Ontario’s promise to protect Great Lakes waters in this province. They come on the heels of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (“Agreement”) …

The Agreement prohibits taking water out of the Great Lakes Basin for use in other regions (with a few exceptions). It also prohibits taking water from one Great Lake for use in another Great Lake (“Intra-Basin transfers”), unless the water is eventually returned.

Ontario’s proposed rules contain one surprise: they allow the diversion of water from one Great Lake to another Great Lake. This kind of large-scale diversion is exactly what the Agreement was originally intended to prevent.

Of all the parties to the Agreement, Ontario has the fewest incentives to conserve municipal water supplies or to protect drinking water quality. There’s always another Great Lake. We can always build a bigger pipe.

And because of our geography and our political reach, Ontario may emerge as one of the greatest threats to Great Lakes water.

This is not the way for Ontario to fulfill its commitments to the eight Great Lakes States … or to our own communities.

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

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February 12, 2007

Great Lakes Compact Passes Minnesota Senate

Hat tip: Loon Commons:

Today, the Minnesota Senate debated and passed the Great Lakes Compact (HF 110)! The legislation passed the House on February 1.

Prior Post: Status on legislative passage of the Great Lakes Compact – January 2007 update

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