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E-M:/ Press Release: Tonight's House votes start down road to water, fish protections

May 21, 2008



Cyndi Roper, Clean Water Action: 517-490-1394

Dr. Bryan Burroughs, Trout Unlimited: 616-460-0477

Hugh McDiarmid Jr.,, Michigan Environmental Council: 248-660-4300

Terry Swier, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation: 231-349-9480

Rusty Gates, Anglers of the AuSable: 989-348-8462

Abby Rubley, Michigan League of Conservation Voters: 517-420-6777



Michigan House Starts Push for Stronger Water, Fish Protection

Passage of Great Lakes bills begin the job of defending water; action pending on the  most important safeguards



Water legislation approved this evening by the Michigan House of Representatives sets the stage for a showdown in the House over protection of Michigan’s world-class trout streams, rivers, ponds and the Great Lakes.


Four bills in the House package passed this evening; leaving three of the most important bills for a vote at a later date. Members of the Great Lakes, Great Michigan Coalition said the remaining bills are key to a solid package.


“The House hasn’t arrived on the scene to protect the Great Lakes, but they at least started down that road tonight,” said Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “It sets up a battle between corporate interests who see water as a profit center, and the defenders of the public’s right to water who support rules resulting in fewer dead trout, healthier water flow in streams, and better protections for those who depend on Michigan water for their businesses, for their farms, for their drinking water, and for their recreation.”


The House action comes in the wake of the Michigan Senate’s passage of substandard rules last week. The Senate’s rules would allow 3 percent or more of trout to be killed due to water withdrawals, and reduce some streamflows more than 25 percent with no permit required.


The Senate and House versions mirror one another in several aspects – both largely exempt agricultural irrigation operations from needing permits, and both include passage of the Great Lakes Compact, an eight-state agreement providing minimum protections against large-scale water diversions. The Compact must be approved by all eight states and Congress before it will become law. Michigan is poised to become the sixth state to approve it.

The additional state-level laws are necessary as a backstop in case the Compact is not approved by Congress, and also to protect Michigan-specific interests like world-class coldwater trout streams, a water-dependent agricultural industry, and more than 5 million residents who depend on groundwater for drinking.


“The Compact is a framework, but we’re putting our own stewardship rules on that frame,” said Hugh McDiarmid Jr., of  the Michigan Environmental Council. “As the only state entirely within the Great Lakes basin, Michigan has the most to gain from strong water protections and the most to lose from weak ones.”


The Lakes contain nearly 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water and are connected to the countless brooks, streams, ponds, swamps, creeks, lakes and groundwater that pulse through Michigan.