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E-M:/ Groups React To Water Moratorium

For Immediate Release
Friday, May 27, 2005
More Information:
David Holtz, Clean Water Action, 313-300-4454 (cell)
Terry Swier, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, 231-972-8856
Lisa Wozniak, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, 734-222-9650
Mike Shriberg, PIRGIM, 517-803-7450
Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club, 517-484-2372

Granholm's water moratorium 'wake-up call' for lawmakers
 Today's decision on Nestle-Evart private water sale challenges Legislature to act

LANSING, MI--Governor Granholm’s moratorium today on the private sale of Great Lakes waters is a wake-up call for lawmakers and underscores the urgent need for the Legislature to act on proposals to end the “free for all” for Michigan’s waters, conservation and environmental groups said today.  The groups praised Granholm's decision on the moratorium, but expressed concern with the state's decision to issue a permit for water sales to the Nestle Corporation.

The governor's action today follows the release last week of proposals to the Legislature from nine conservation and environmental groups. The bipartisan proposals are aimed at protecting Great Lakes waters from withdrawal. 
Michigan--the Great Lakes State-is the only state among eight that border the lakes to fail to enact water withdrawal and diversion legislation, relying solely on Congress and a federal law to protect Michigan's waters.

"The governor's decision highlights just how vulnerable Michigan's water is," said Mike Shriberg of PIRGIM.  "When water remains within the Great Lakes basin, it is not strongly protected under current laws, as the Evart decision shows.  This action today highlights the need for strong, comprehensive water withdrawal laws and regulations to ensure that our most precious nature resource is protected."

Responding to the Nestle Corporation's proposal to withdraw up to 168 million gallons for water annually from an Evart, MI municipal well, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality today granted a conditional permit for the project.  But the agency restricted sales of Nestle's Ice Mountain brand of water from Evart to within the Great Lakes basin and issued a directive barring any new or increased private water sales from Michigan's waters until the Legislature acts on proposals to regulate withdrawals and diversions of Great Lakes waters.

The permit would require Nestle to certify that none of the water from the Evart well will be sold outside the Great Lakes basin.

“We have questions about how Nestle’s compliance with the restrictions on the Evart project will be monitored and enforced,” said David Holtz, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action.  “Years of budget cuts have handcuffed the DEQ’s enforcement abilities. But if compliance can be assured, this agreement respects the principle that the Great Lakes waters must not be captured and sold for private profit outside the watershed of this world-class ecosystem.” 

On May 18, nine environmental and conservation groups presented a bipartisan package of water use proposals to state lawmakers.  Proposals from the groups include:  establishing strict standards for water exports; enacting tough new restrictions on privatizing and commercializing Great Lakes waters requiring approval of the Legislature; and ensuring our streams, rivers and lakes are not harmed by large or numerous withdrawals of water, including ground waters.   New water conservation measures are also being proposed, as well as a call for firm guidelines for implementing federal Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) provisions outlawing Great Lakes water exports if one or more of the eight Great Lakes states objects. It was a lack of guidelines defining water diversions in Michigan that Granholm cited today in refusing to invoke federal law to stop the Nestle-Evart project. 

Clean Water Action, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, PIRGIM and Sierra Club had written Granholm on March 11 asking her to halt the Nestle-Evart project.  That action was followed by an inquiry into the Evart proposal by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and today's subsequent decision by the governor.

WRDA is the only federal law regulating Great Lakes water exports and is increasingly seen as a politically fragile and limited federal protection that relies too heavily on other states' cooperation and the diminishing political clout of Michigan and Great Lakes states in Congress.  Six years ago a Canadian company called the Nova Group received a legal permit to ship 156 million gallons of water annually in a tanker from Lake Superior to Asia.  The permit, however, was rescinded but no Michigan law exists that would prevent a similar proposal from happening in Michigan. 

David Holtz
Michigan Director
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Fund
517-203-0754 East Lansing
313-300-4454 cell

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