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E-M:/ Agreeement to Protect Great Lakes - Proceed with Caution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            June 19, 2000

James Clift (517) 487-9539

State Must Proceed Cautiously on Agreement to Protect Great Lakes

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) today praised Governor Engler for taking an important step in increasing protection afforded the Great Lakes from the threat of water diversions.  But the Council is concerned with provisions included in the draft interstate agreement that may make it too easy for a party to withdraw water, placing our natural resources at risk.

MEC is concerned with two basic premises of Engler’s plan:

- It does not require that a party seeking a withdrawal of Great Lakes water demonstrate that the need for the diversion cannot be addressed by any other means.  The basic tenet of any agreement must be water conservation.

- It does not treat in-basin uses and out-of-basin diversions equally, making any agreement subject to challenge in federal courts or trade tribunals.

“Protection of the waters of the Great Lakes ecosystem needs to be the among the highest priorities of our state,” stated James Clift, Policy Director for MEC.  “As population growth and urban sprawl place greater demands on this ecosystem it is critical that the state work to protect the resource and move toward restoration of those areas that have suffered from destructive past practices.”

At the center of the proposal is a recognition that any withdrawal proposal should result in a “net benefit” to the ecosystems as a whole.  This will require that the states and provinces place greater emphasis on monitoring all uses of water, on the quantity of water used, and how the use affects the quality of the resource.  “We are somewhat worried given the administration’s neglect in these areas in the past.  Michigan was the last state to begin compiling water use information and still has significant gaps in its inventory of current uses,” said Clift.

“At this point it is critical that the administration establishes a process in which environmental groups and other stakeholders are given an opportunity to comment on the proposal and assist in further refining the document,” stated Clift. “We are troubled that the administration is releasing an “agreement in principle” without, in advance, receiving greater input from the stakeholders around the state.”