Friday, April 13, 2007

Great Lakes Prominence, Vulnerability, Coming Into Focus

Activists have been stressing it for years, and now international climate change studies and media coverage are emphasizing it, but it's hard to get the powers to be in some Waukesha County communities to grasp this reality:

The Great Lakes could become a contested resource if a warming climate causes water shortages, so they need protection and strong stewardship more than ever.

This is part of the reason that US and Canadian negotiators worked from 2001-2005 to hammer out a proposed new set of rules and standards that would make it difficult - - but allowable under certain conditions - - to move water away from the Great Lakes.

The goal: reasonable, regulated access and protections, as a commonsense upgrade to the two countries' Compact that has managed the Great Lakes since 1985.

And because some communities near the Great Lakes actually straddle the basin's boundaries - - such as the City of New Berlin - - the new rules would allow that city, under certain, definable situations, to divert water from the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan).

Other communities farther west, like the City of Waukesha, could apply for and receive diversion permission under a different section of the new rules and procedures.

That's what makes it so odd that some state legislators and business leaders in Waukesha County are objecting to the rules, and, in some cases, to the structure and provisions of the entire Compact.

You'd think that movers and shakers in Waukesha County would embrace the new rules, and the agreement that contains them, and in fact, should take a leading role in Madison to get the Compact ratified and implemented in Wisconsin.

That's because for the agreement's new rules and procedures to go into effect, all the eight US Great Lakes states must adopt them.

The proposed new Compact rules were approved by the Great Lakes Governors in December, 2005; Wisconsin's continuing delay in approving them, due in part to these Waukesha County-centered objections - - falls into the self-defeating political category of "letting no good deed go unpunished."

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