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E-M:/ Press Release: Senate Must Strengthen Water Use Bills






December 6, 2005

Contact: see below




Senate Must Strengthen Water Use Bills

Bills fail to address diversions of Great Lakes water or require conservation


Lansing — Last night, the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs committee passed a package of water use bills that fail to address major water issues. While the bills are an improvement over current law, they fall short of providing adequate protections for the Great Lakes. The bills are expected to move to the full Senate this week where amendments will be offered to strengthen protections for the Great Lakes. 


“These water use bills are a step in the right direction, but they still have major holes that need fixing,” said Kelly Dardzinski of PIRGIM. “We urge the Senate to stand up for Michigan’s water and pass amendments to strengthen these bills.”


Michigan citizens expect better protections for our Great Lakes water than these bills would provide,” added Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “This package of bills can be improved, and after spending more than a year working on a plan for strong water use laws, our state deserves more than what is on the table.”


The major problems with the Senate bills are that they do nothing to protect against diversions outside of the Great Lakes basin, only protect against the most catastrophic natural resource damage, and fail to require conservation practices.


“These bills do nothing to address the looming threat of our water being sent away to other states and far-off places, whether by tanker, pipe, or bottle,” said Cheryl Mendoza of Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Everyone in Michigan agrees that we need to keep our water at work for Michigan, but current laws leave our water vulnerable to being diverted from the Great Lakes basin.”


Amendments will be introduced this week on the Senate floor to improve the bills. The amendments will:

  • Protect against diversions by requiring legislative approval for diversions outside of the Great Lakes basin,
  • Protect all of our natural resources from water use impacts by expanding protections to include wetlands and other habitats without fish populations, and
  • Ensure water conservation by requiring generally accepted conservation practices for each sector.

These amendments were offered last night in committee, but Senators Birkholz and Van Woerkom voted against and defeated them.


Michigan’s water use protections are like a leaky bucket with ten holes in it,” said Gayle Miller of the Sierra Club. “Without the amendments, these weak bills would plug some of the holes, but still leave us with an empty bucket at the end of the day.”


"Unless these bills are strengthened, this is a really bad package of legislation that just creates the illusion of regulation and protection of our precious water resources,” added Chris Shafer, Law Professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.


Earlier drafts of the bills actually weakened existing protections of Great Lakes water. The Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition has worked for months to strengthen the bills to their current form. Strong packages of bills introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of legislators and in the Senate by Senator Brater would address all of these shortfalls identified in the weak Senate bills. 


The Senate is considering the water bills more than a year after Governor Granholm introduced water legislation warning that the Great Lakes were largely unprotected by state law from diversions. A Michigan Appeals Court decision last week, upholding some protections but weakening others, created additional urgency for legislation action.


The Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition is an unprecedented alliance of 45 organizations united around the need for strong water use laws. For a full list of endorsers, visit www.greatlakesgreatmichigan.org.


Becky Beauregard, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, (517) 485-8820

James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council, cell: (517) 256-0553

Kelly Dardzinski, PIRGIM, (517) 664-2600

Cheryl Mendoza, Alliance for the Great Lakes, (616) 850-0745

Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action, cell: (517) 490-1394




Kate Madigan

Deputy Policy Director

Michigan Environmental Council

119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A

Lansing, MI 48912

517-487-3606 x21