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E-M:/ News Release: Granholm Urged To Halt Water Project



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            More Information:
Thursday, March 24, 2005             David Holtz 313-300-4454/Clean Water Action
                                                                    Kate Madigan 734-662-6597/PIRGIM
                                                                    Emily Green 608-257-4994/Sierra Club

                                                                  

                                                           

Groups to Governor Granholm:
Invoke Federal Law on Proposed Water Project

 LANSING,MI—Four environmental groups have asked Governor Granholm to invoke a federal law requiring consultation among all eight Great Lakes states on proposed new or increased water exports from the Great Lakes Basin. They cite the proposed agreement between Nestle Corporation and the City of Evart, which is selling municipal water to the company for bottling and sale outside the Basin, as “plainly unlawful” without a regional consultation process as provided for in the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).
 
Evart, a city of about 1,700 30 miles northwest of Clare, is seeking to dedicate one of its municipal water wells to serving Nestle Corporation’s Ice Mountain label

“The Legislature’s failure to act to protect Michigan’s waters from being shipped wholesale out of state means Governor Granholm must now act under federal law to keep Michigan’s waters in Michigan,” said David Holtz, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action.
 

"This case highlights the need for state water use management laws," said PIRGIM Advocate Kate Madigan. "Michigan is behind every other state in the Great Lakes region in passing water use laws, making access to our water a free-for-all and our state a target for water prospectors."

 In a letter delivered this month to Granholm (full text of the letter is below), Clean Water Action, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, the Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter and the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) cited a 2001 opinion by then-Attorney General Granholm that Nestle’s original pumping and bottling plan in Mecosta County was subject to the federal law. In the September 2001 opinion, Granholm wrote, “The withdrawal and bottling of such water for sale in interstate commerce outside the Great Lakes basin would constitute a diversion or export ‘for use outside the basin’ and therefore would be subject to the WRDA.” 

   Allowing the Evart project to proceed without regional review, then, is plainly unlawful.  For the same or similar reasons, the diversion of water for sale in bottles or any other sized container or conduit violates Michigan’s own Great Lakes Preservation Act,” the groups wrote.
 
The groups also warned that a failure by the state to halt the project will result in “a dangerous new precedent in the conversion of a public water system to private ownership, and in allowing the diversion and export of Michigan’s water resources for private sale.” They urged the Governor to halt the proposed water deal until the issue can be studied further.
 
Permitting private corporations to take ownership of public trust water resources is the first step toward losing control of the fate of these resources and of the Great Lakes themselves,” the groups said.

Rita Jack, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter  Water Sentinels Project Coordinator, urged Granholm to act now. 
"We know Governor Granholm wants to protect our previous Great Lakes,  Her work as Attorney General made that clear," said Jack.  "We hope she'll remain consistent, and use the federal law to stop oour water from being shipped out of state."

The groups noted that former Gov. John Engler in 2001, citing the Water Resources Development Act, filed a formal objection to a municipal water bottling project in New York state.   That action was singled out by then-Attorney General Granholm in her 2001 letter opinion. as a "good example" to follow and should be used by Michigan's governors on in-state as well as out-of-state water diversions.

"The recent proposal by the Village of Webster, New York, is a good example," she wrote. "Swift opposition by the state of Michigan to that proposal sent a clear signal that we are willing to protect Great Lakes water. But that signal must not be interpreted as self-serving, aimed only at proposals to sell Great Lakes water removed from other states."


Water Resources Development Act/Great Lakes:  http://michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3313_3677_3704-12588--,00.html


Text of Attorney General Granholm's September, 2001 letter:  http://www.waterissweet.org/pdf/granholmletter.pdf

Story on Attorney General Granholm's opinion that water bottling projects must be approved by Great Lakes governors:  http://www.mlui.org/reportarticle.asp?fileid=11845

March 24, 2005 Cadillac News article on Nestle-Evart deal:  http://www.cadillacnews.com/articles/2005/03/03/news/news01.txt

March 9, 2005 Traverse City Record-Eagle on Nestle-Evart deal:  http://www.gtherald.com/2005/mar/0309edit.htm

March 6, 2005 Grand Rapids Press article on Nestle-Evart deal:  http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1110107797176840.xml

Background information on Michigan water use controversy:  http://www.savemiwater.org/


Text of environmental groups' letter to Governor Granholm:

March 10, 2005

 

Honorable Jennifer Granholm
Governor of Michigan
State Capitol
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI  48909

 Dear Governor Granholm:

 We are writing to ask you to take action to stop the commercialization of Michigan’s public trust water resources and to protect Michigan’s future by insisting that our water resources remain in public ownership.

 At the outset, we want to stress the importance of your action in this matter to protect the future of the Great Lakes and the people of Michigan. The private capture and sale of any water in Michigan could open a Pandora’s box. Water has long been recognized and treated as a public trust resource. Failure to prevent its commercialization could in the long run lead to wholesale water grabs that could remove state control of water resources, lower water levels, damage fisheries and navigation, and jeopardize the health of the Great Lakes.

 Our request has new urgency given the news that the City of Evart is about to consummate an unprecedented agreement with the Nestle Corporation to sell a portion of Evart’s municipal well field and the municipal water it supplies to this private corporation for bottling and sale. If permitted, this project will set a dangerous new precedent in the conversion of a public water system to private ownership, and in allowing the diversion and export of Michigan’s water resources for private sale.

 Under an opinion letter issued by then-Attorney General Granholm on September 13, 2001, any proposal for a new or increased export of water from the Great Lakes Basin, including the sale of bottled water, is subject to regional consultation and approval provisions of Section 1109 of the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) as amended in 1986. WRDA provides that such exports are subject to a review and potential veto by any of the eight Great Lakes governors. As Attorney General, Governor Granholm wrote:  The withdrawal and bottling of such water for sale in interstate commerce outside the Great Lakes basin would constitute a diversion or export ‘for use outside the basin’ and therefore would be subject to the WRDA.”  

 Allowing the Evart project to proceed without regional review, then, is plainly unlawful.  For the same or similar reasons, the diversion of water for sale in bottles or any other sized container or conduit violates Michigan’s own Great Lakes Preservation Act.

But we have even more fundamental concerns, based on the well-established legal premise that Michigan’s waters are a public resource held in trust and cannot be alienated from public ownership without an expressive legislative act, a finding of a public purpose, and a finding that the proposal will not cause material harm to the public trust. Moreover, there are serious questions concerning the constitutionality of converting a portion of a municipal well field facility to a private entity’s exclusive use, given the fact that the water source is a public resource, developed under a state statute authorizing only municipalities to develop them to serve water users of the municipality (not for sale and use elsewhere for private profit).  The Michigan constitution forbids lending of credit or disposition of public money or property for private purposes.

 Clearly, no such findings have been made by the Legislature. We argue that they could not be made even if attempted. Permitting private corporations to take ownership of public trust water resources is the first step toward losing control of the fate of these resources and of the Great Lakes themselves.

 We ask you to take immediate action to halt the Evart project, and to articulate policy that will defend Michigan’s water and the Great Lakes from private ownership, diversion, export, diminishment and degradation.

 Sincerely,

 David Holtz, Michigan Director, Clean Water Action
Terry Swier, President, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
Kate Madigan, Environmental Advocate, PIRGIM
Anne Woiwode, Director, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
-- 
David Holtz
Michigan Director
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Fund
517-203-0754 East Lansing
313-300-4454 cell
http://www.cleanwateraction.org/mi/index.htm

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