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E-M:/ Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation Press Release on Annex

Enviro-Mich message from "Terry Swier" <tswier@hotmail.com>


From: Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation

Contact:	Terry Swier, President		231 972 8856
Jim Olson, Attorney		231 946 0044 office - 231 499 8831 Cell

Proposed Great Lakes Plan Would Convert Water into Product for Export

November 22, 2005, Traverse City, Michigan. Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, the citizen group that won a major court victory against Nestlé Waters North America over the export of bottled water out of Michigan?s watersheds and the Great Lakes Basin against, announced it can not support the current version of two agreements for the future protection of waters of the Great Lakes. The agreements, Great Lakes Water Resources Agreement and Compact were negotiated for nearly four years. Last week copies were released, leaving a short three weeks before the governors are slated to sign them on December 13, 2005 in Milwaukee.

?These two agreements may save the Annex process that so many have worked hard for, but they will not save the Great Lakes,? Terry Swier, MCWC?s President said. ?There is a hole in these pacts, and over time the agreements could sink under the national and global demands for our Great Lakes water,? she said. ?The negotiators and Council of Great Lakes Governors should be commended for how far they?ve come, but these agreements should not be signed in their present form.?

?The court case reaffirmed that water is a commons, that these waters cannot be diverted for sale where it violates common law principles that protect the integrity of lakes and stream and the public trust in these waters,? said Jim Olson, the environmental lawyer who won the successful court victory, now before the Michigan appellate court. ?Unfortunately, the two proposed agreements could seriously undermine these common law protections,? he said.

MCWC applauds the negotiators for the progress on some issues, but calls for its rejection on other key issues. The Agreements seek to ban all diversions from the Basin except for those that would help cities that straddle the Basin extend water service lines to their residents and businesses. They also would impose environmental and conservation measures for those who use the water here ? such as manufacturing, generating electrical power, golf courses, tourism, and importantly farming. They even reinsert the idea of public trust in the waters. ?But the agreements collapse when it comes to guarding against exports of water as a product, ? Olson said. ?In fact, the agreements appear to bore a gaping loophole in favor of those who want to profit off these public resources as private products without authorization or license from the states on behalf of their citizens. This is simply too large of a hole to accept. The governors need to insist that the agreements be clarified and changed to correct this major failure.?

The revised agreements provide that water withdrawn by mechanical means for use elsewhere is a ?product,? not a diversion. That means any amount of water put in any sized containers or packages ? bottles or bags for example ? is a product not subject to the ban on diversions. ?Basically, the agreements are illusory when it comes to preventing the sale and export, as opposed to diversion, of water from the Basin,? Olson said. ?The agreements can be interpreted as making water a product at the point of withdrawal for those who intend to wholesale or retail it somewhere else. This is not the kind of stewardship intended by the public trust as recognized in the agreements themselves.?

The agreements also provide that the export of water in containers over 5.7 gallons would be prohibited. But this prohibition conflicts with the agreements definition of the export of water as a product. The agreements allow export of water in containers less than 5.7 gallons, what some have labeled the bottled water exemption. ?But this is not about bottled water, it?s about the private capture of water for export,? Olson said. ?You can export hundreds of millions of gallons of water a year in a bottle from watersheds, as much as in a ship or large containers.? The agreements provide a savings clause that states can determine different treatment for bottled water exports, but it is unclear what ?treatment? means. ?Clearly, the savings clause does not reserve the right of states to determine whether the water should be authorized or licensed in the first place. Once it?s a product, it will be very difficult to turn-back the clock to regulate or control it in the future,? Olson said. ?It?s better to correct this flaw now rather than be sorry later over such a momentous decision. We?re talking water for the ages, both present and future generations, here.?

?Despite what other industry and well-intended environmental groups may say in favor of adopting the agreements we don?t? think they speak for most citizens and businesses,? Swier said, ?and these groups have not addressed the product export loop-hole.? MCWC is urging citizens to contact Governor Granholm and the other Great Lakes states governors with their concerns.


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