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E-M:/ Water Pact goes to Governor; Coalition applauds new protections as focus shifts to Congress



June 26, 2008

 

 

Contact:

 

James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council: 517-256-0553

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

Dr. Grenetta Thomassey, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council: 231-838-5193

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

Gayle Miller, Sierra Club: 517-484-2372

 

 

 

Water pact goes to Governor; Coalition endorses new protections

Bipartisan pact not perfect, but includes important ‘firsts’; focus shifts to Congress for Compact ratification

 

Lansing, MI -- A bipartisan agreement passed by the Michigan Legislature early this afternoon includes important new protections for Michigan waters, locking in key safeguards for Michigan streams concluded a coalition devoted to water protection.

 

The deal, reached after years of negotiation and research, was endorsed this week by Great Lakes, Great Michigan – a coalition of more than 70 civic, environmental, business and sporting organizations.

 

But the coalition vowed to renew its push for important protections left out of the package – most notably “public trust” language reinforcing the doctrine that Michigan water belongs to the public.

 

“We encourage Governor Granholm to sign these bills into law, while serving notice that we will maintain the fight to get the remainder of legislation that is essential to protect our world-class water resources,” said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council. “With other states and nations increasingly eyeing Great Lakes water for diversion or profit, it is critical we redouble our efforts to protect and preserve our water for future generations. Today’s package accomplishes much of this.”

 

The bipartisan compromise, finalized just after 1 p.m. today by the Michigan House of Representatives:

 

n      Approves the eight-state Great Lakes Compact and its prohibition against large scale water diversions (Michigan will become the 7th state to approve it)

 n  Ensures that users do not excessively harm resources by taking too much  water

n      Adopts conservation principles to be utilized by water users

n      Adds public input into decisions about large-scale water uses that might impact local ecosystems

 

 

 “Once Governor Granholm signs these bills, Michigan’s water will be significantly better protected than they previously were,” said Abby Rubley of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “These laws protect most of Michigan’s streamflows, ensuring availability to business, industry, farmers, and citizens for reasonable use.”

 

Michigan is the only state entirely within the Great Lakes watershed, which contains almost 20 percent of the planet’s fresh surface water. Increasing demand for fresh water is expected to ratchet up pressure to divert water from the watershed, where it would be lost forever from the Great Lakes system.

 

Recent months have seen notables including a Democratic presidential candidate and Ohio’s lieutenant governor suggest that water might be siphoned from the lakes.

 

The legislation uses a combination of a new scientific geographic information system-based water withdrawal assessment tool along with other criteria to determine whether large-scale water withdrawals within the state are harmful.

 

No other state in the country is using such an innovative combination of science and public policy to protect water in this way.

 

Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition members said they would regroup in coming months to fight for additional protections not included in the package.

 

Most notably, the legislature bowed to special interests who lobbied against strengthening the “public trust” doctrine which affirms that Michigan water is a public resource and not a commodity to be indiscriminately bought and sold for profit.

 

“We are extremely disappointed that the legislature listened to special interests and not their constituents on the public trust issue,” said Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “We’re certain that citizens ‘get’ this, even if their representatives in Lansing do not. When we revisit this issue, we’re confident that we can convince public servants to reflect the will of the people.”

 

Coalition members also will begin focusing on shepherding the Great Lakes Compact through the United States Congress. Once Pennsylvania passes the pact, Congress must ratify it and the President must sign it to gain the force of law.

 

The Compact prevents large-scale diversions from the Great Lakes, and is the linchpin of the legislation passed in Lansing this week.

 

Michigan’s Senators and Congressional delegation will need to join forces with their colleagues throughout the region to carry the ball on ratification,” said Clift. “The Compact recognizes that the Great Lakes – like the Florida Everglades and the Grand Canyon – are a resource of global significance that the entire nation has a stake in protecting.”

 

 

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