For Immediate Release More Information:
Friday, January 25, 2008 Cyndi Roper, 517-490-1394
Cynthia Price, 586-258-6069
Tom Thompson, 231-894-4313
Town Hall on Water Withdrawal and Export:
Citizens Say: We Decide Where Our Great Lakes Waters Go!
MUSKEGON, MI. About one hundred Muskegon area residents told a trio of state lawmakers Thursday that they support strong measures this year to protect Lake Michigan shoreline communities against the threat of large-scale water withdrawals that could impact local rivers and the area’s tourist economy. The comments came at a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition as Lansing lawmakers debate competing bills that will likely shape the future of Michigan’s water use. Residents also heard from a panel of water experts who discussed ways to protect Great Lakes water – which accounts for 20 percent of the fresh surface water on the planet.
At the Town Hall meeting, Representative Mary Valentine (D-91) spoke in favor of strengthening state laws to protect groundwater, saying, “As water shortages increase, water will become as valuable as gold. Michigan, the Great Lakes state, must lead the way in protecting the Great Lakes by passing strong legislation to protect our water for future generations.”
Valentine is sponsoring legislation that would tighten restrictions on water withdrawals and provide public trust protection to groundwater. Also attending Thursday’s Town Hall meeting were Representative Doug Bennett (D-92), a supporter of Valentine’s legislation, and Senator Gerald Van Woerkom, (R-34), who supports a package of Senate bills that provide weak protections overall for groundwater.
Don Studaven, Blue Lake Township Supervisor, spoke of his surprise to learn of interest from a large water bottling firm in accessing groundwater on the township’s treasured scout camp, Camp Owassippee, well after preliminary work had begun. He pointed to a resolution supporting strong water use legislation recently passed by the Michigan Townships Association as evidence of the interest by township officials in stronger protections for groundwater. He said, “With stronger laws, we will know what’s happening with our water from day one, not after the fact when it’s too late.”
Amy L. VanLoon, Executive Director of the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce VanLoon provided the Chamber’s viewpoint in a letter provided to state legislators at the Town Hall meeting. She cited economics as the reason for the Chamber’s support of the legislative package endorsed by the Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition, saying, “The building blocks of the economy in the White Lake area are its natural water resources. The lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands not only make this a special place to live, but have also become our number one product to market and attract visitors and tourists.”
“Studies have suggested that water withdrawals have direct effects on local rivers and streams;” said Dr. Mark Luttenton, of GVSU, at the Town Hall meeting. He cautioned, “The important connection between groundwater and lakes and rivers needs to be carefully weighed by state legislators as they craft new water use legislation, which should be based on science.”
Panelist and attorney Chris Bzdok, of the law firm, Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C. said Michigan’s water laws must be strengthened to extend Michigan’s public trust doctrine—which safeguards many waterways—to groundwater that is now threatened by large-scale withdrawals from international water exporters. “Groundwater deserves protection under Michigan’s public trust doctrine,” said Bzdok. “This provides a way to safeguard the public’s interest in protecting the values that groundwater provide, in particular, their role in feeding Michigan’s many rivers and lakes.”
Cyndi Roper from Clean Water Action, one of the event’s sponsors, said the strong turnout Thursday indicates Lansing lawmakers are being watched closely as they decide whether to support or oppose strong water laws. “West Michigan citizens understand the value of water and the value of their participation in the decision-making process,” said Roper. “We applaud their foresight.”
The Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition, consisting of groups from throughout the state of Michigan, advocates legislation currently being debated in the House of Representatives (House Bills 4343 and 5065-5073), as well as several companion bills in the Senate, Senate Bills 721-729.
For more information, visit www.greatlakesgreatmichigan.org
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