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E-M:/ Michigan's Great Lakes waters protection proposal

Enviro-Mich message from Great Lakes United <glu@glu.org>

For immediate release
Contact Reg Gilbert, (716) 886-0142


BUFFALO, N.Y. - In a proposal to fellow Great Lakes states and provinces 
announced today, Michigan has recognized the importance of acting now to 
protect the waters of the Great Lakes from export, diversion, and waste, 
says Great Lakes United, a coalition of 170 organizations in the United 
States, Canada, and First Nations dedicated to protecting and restoring the 

Michigan is proposing that the Great Lakes Charter, originally signed in 
1985 by the eight Great Lakes states and the provinces of Ontario and 
Québec, be amended so that all proposals for new or increased withdrawals 
of Great Lakes basin water be judged according to a standard common to all 
basin jurisdictions.

Michigan proposes that these withdrawals be judged not just by their 
potential to harm the Great Lakes, but also by their ability to actually 
improve the state of the Great Lakes water system. If strongly worded and 
consistently implemented, such a standard is likely the only way to assure 
that international trade agreements do not allow export and diversion of 
Great Lakes waters.

"We are pleased Michigan has taken the first step on the road to protecting 
the waters of the Great Lakes," declared Reg Gilbert, senior coordinator at 
Great Lakes United. "Now the process of public debate and improvement of 
Michigan's proposal must begin."

"This proposal was prompted by public outrage in 1998 over a plan to export 
Great Lakes water to Asia from Lake Superior," Gilbert continued, "and by 
ongoing public concern about low water levels ever since. Nonetheless, the 
public was not invited to help Michigan decide what course of action to 
take to protect the lakes. The public absolutely must be involved in 
improving this proposal before it is finalized by the states and provinces."

Significant omissions

Michigan's proposal contains significant omissions, most significantly in 
failing to call for an overall plan for conserving Great Lakes waters and 
restoring damage already done to the Great Lakes water system. Without such 
a plan, any future improvements under the state's proposal will be 
haphazard and potentially result in no overall benefit to the system. This 
could keep the region vulnerable to trade challenges claiming that basin 
water protection measures are really disguised barriers to trade.

"Basin citizens will know our waters are protected from harmful forces both 
inside and outside the region only when the Great Lakes states and 
provinces create a 'master plan' for protecting the lakes -  reducing water 
use and restoring past damage to the natural water system," Gilbert said.
Michigan's proposed changes

Beyond proposing a basin water use "improvement standard," Michigan's 
proposal includes several suggested changes to the basin's current water 
management system, including:

1)	Creation of binding agreements among the states and provinces for 
judging the permissibility of water use proposals
2)	Assurance of "common and cooperative" policies for managing water by all 
the basin states and provinces
3)	Inclusion of the public in water-related decision-making.

Further needed improvements

"The proposal must be substantially improved before it is finalized by the 
eight states and two provinces around the lakes," Gilbert said. Among the 
improvements suggested by Great Lakes United:

1)	An overall strategy for protecting the waters of the Great Lakes. The 
laudable "improvement" criterion for judging water use proposals will not 
restore the damage already done to the Great Lakes unless the states and 
provinces set an overall strategy and specific goals for improvement
2)	The definition of the term "improvement" in Michigan's proposal is too 
broad, implicitly including virtually any form of positive environmental 
action, not necessarily water-related
3)	The water conservation provisions of Michigan's proposal are weak. The 
states and provinces should require maximum achievable water conservation 
measures before new or increased uses are approved. Strong conservation 
measures are the cornerstone of both effective environmental protection of 
the Great Lakes and international credibility that we are truly attempting 
to protect the lakes for their own sake, rather than for the benefit of 
local economic interests.
4)	The scope of human water-related actions affected by state and 
provincial scrutiny should go beyond mere water "withdrawals" (that is, 
taking water out of lakes, rivers, or the ground) to include the full range 
of human actions that damage the basin water system and the living things 
that depend on it. For example, simply slowing down a river's flow can make 
it impossible for certain fish to reproduce in the river
5)	Public involvement must be broadened to include both creation of the 
initial state and provincial agreement as well as design of the individual 
provincial and state policies following up on that  agreement. Public 
involvement should also include local governments, because they must 
eventually play a lead role in implementation of most water protection measures
6)	The Great Lakes basin should be defined to include the St. Lawrence 
River. Being the farthest downstream, the province of Québec is the 
jurisdiction most vulnerable to abuses of the Great Lakes water system; it 
needs to be centrally involved in protecting it.
7)	The Great Lakes Charter and any new binding agreements for managing the 
basin's water uses should include the basin's First Nations and tribes, who 
have sovereign rights to basin waters and a long history of concern for 
environmental protection
"Great Lakes United is committed to working with the governors and premiers 
of the Great Lakes to assure that their plans to protect the waters of the 
Great Lakes, both basin-wide and in each state and province, are strong and 
effective," Gilbert concluded.
Great Lakes United is a coalition of 170 organizations from the United 
States, Canada, and First Nations, working to protect and restore the Great 
Lakes - St. Lawrence River ecosystem. GLU was founded in 1982, has offices 
in Buffalo and Montréal, and has been actively working on Great Lakes water 
quantity issues since the negotiation of the Great Lakes Charter in 1984.

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