Tribe says water legislation would violate its fishing rights
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- An American Indian tribe says bills pending in the Legislature to regulate high-volume water withdrawals would violate its rights by reducing fish populations in some rivers and streams.
Officials with other northern Michigan tribes also are raising concerns about the measures, pending in the House and Senate. The two versions are similar, but have differences that sponsors are trying to work out before floor votes are taken.
The bills would regulate withdrawals of more than 200,000 gallons per day from rivers and streams - or from underground aquifers - for commercial uses such as farming and manufacturing.
Lawmakers are considering them along with a related proposal to ratify an interstate compact designed to prevent Great Lakes water from being shipped or piped to other regions.
Supporters say the bills would help make sure Michigan's waters are used responsibly. But critics say their protections don't go far enough.
In a letter sent recently to legislative leaders, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians said both bills were flawed because they would let businesses remove enough water from streams to diminish populations of fish such as trout by reducing stream flow or raising temperatures.
"Any such reductions would amount to an unconstitutional taking of the tribe's property right in fish resources of rivers and streams," said the letter, signed by Tribal Chairman Robert Kewaygoshkum.
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