State Sen. Neal Kedzie, (R-Elkhorn), had asked legislative leaders to give him until the end of the year to whip his Great Lakes study committee into shape.
Apparently, those bi-partisan leaders have reached something of a compromise:
Kedzie has announced that he's been given until September instead - - which means he and his 18-member committee will have to work hard through the summer to resolve deep divisions and report out a proposed bill relatively quickly.
The committee, stalled over objections from Waukesha political and business interests who want Wisconsin's endorsement of the Great Lakes Compact (a water management agreement) watered-down to permit easy diversions to sprawling Waukesha County, has not met since December.
I posted an extensive analysis of this problem, here.
To sum it up, the extension is a mistake.
Extending Kedzie's committee only guarantees further delay; That is because it is top heavy with Waukesha legislators, local officials and development executives who are putting their interests before those of an international region holding the Great Lakes in common trust.
Kedzie's announcement, reproduced on a blog posted by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on behalf of some legislators, is reproduced below:
"TUESDAY, June 12, 2007, 1:46 p.m.By Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn)
Compact would protect water, allow some diversion
Earlier today, I appeared before the Joint Legislative Council in my role as chair of the Special Committee on the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact to provide a status report on the work of the committee.
The joint council created this special committee in an effort to study the feasibility of Wisconsin joining seven other Great Lakes states to ultimately ratify the compact.
The compact was signed by the eight governors of the Great Lakes basin states in 2005, and provides -- in its simplest of terms -- a procedural mechanism for those states to provide limited diversions and withdrawals of Great Lakes water for communities in need of such water.
Each state Legislature, then, must devise a comprehensive plan to create legislation in order to implement the compact in each respective state.
The goal is to protect the resource as much as possible, while at the same time, create a reasonable process for communities with potential water shortages.
The Wisconsin Legislature is engaged in this issue through the special committee.While the committee has made significant progress over the last several months, more time will be needed to reach finality with this process and find compromise on many unresolved issues.
By their vote of approval, the Joint Legislative Council granted additional meetings for the special committee to work towards that goal, however a deadline of September 15, 2007 was set.
While I felt more time was needed, I will do all I can as chair of this special committee to work within that timeframe and bring this process to an endpoint by that date. "
Note that Kedzie's explanation to his colleagues of what the Compact (see how the Council of Great Lakes Governors describes the matter, for comparison, at the very end of this post) is puts heavy emphasis on how diversions could assist communities seeking them.
The Compact, while rationalizing diversion procedures, also contains provisions about conservation, bottled water, public participation and other coordinated water-management issues.
And it makes clear, through long checklists, that diversions are matters of last resort, because the thrust of the Compact, already in existence with Wisconsin's leadership since 1985, is conservation and stewardship by eight states and two Canadian provinces of what is a unique fresh water resource on the planet.
That is why many environmental and conservation organizations in Wisconsin want the Badger state's version of the compact to have unambiguously strong language on some key points that business and property rights' advocates want trimmed or eliminated.
One committee member, State. Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), has praised calls to send back to the table the negotiators who worked from 2001-2005 to redraft the Compact.
There's no way that should or would happen. The Great Lakes are at too much risk, and too many years have been spent to upgrade the Compact, to justify starting over. And I suspect that Lazich knows that.
And the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce has stated on more than one occasion that all eight states should not be required to approve diversion applications from communities that lie outside the Great Lakes basin - - a central provision of the Compact and in relevant federal law in place since 1986.
That's what having a cooperative Compact means - - it's a joining, not a separating or a delineating - - and it would be shocking if the Chamber doesn't understand or grasp what a Compact is or why you'd want one when you are talking about a resource that touches eight states.
A Compact with equal votes and voices - - even though New York State has more people or other of the states have more acreage - - means that Wisconsin could block harmful diversion applications from any of seven other states in order to protect Wisconsin waters.
And it's why - - and this is a central fact - - that the Kedzie Committee was told early on by Compact negotiators that substantive changes to the agreement could not be made by the eight states considering it, or the Compact's cooperative message and value would collapse.
Without the Compact's uniformity on behalf of Great Lakes preservation, a chaotic rush for withdrawals and other deleterious results could easily follow.
Some of Kedzie's district includes the very acreage in Western Waukesha County that is growing by leaps and bounds, along with other water-hungry territory in southeastern Wisconsin.
Kedzie is known for his interest in the environment, but given the committee's structure and its inevitable inertia, the committee's work is probably going to be only part of an eventual legislative solution for Wisconsin relative to the Compact, not the entire answer.
"Through the Great Lakes Water Management Initiative, the Council of Great Lakes Governors is taking the lead in protecting the Great Lakes. We recognize that the Great Lakes are one of the most important natural resources in North America and that we must work together to protect them.
The Council assists the Governors and Premiers in coordinating activities under the Great Lakes Charter of 1985, a voluntary agreement through which the Great Lakes States and Provinces cooperatively manage the waters of the Great Lakes.
Despite these important tools, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers of Ontario and Québec recognize that:
o There are threats to the Great Lakes Basin now, and they promise to increase in the future. We are looking ahead and taking protective steps to avoid conflicts and shortages in the future.
o The Great Lakes are critical to our economy. We must use the water wisely to help ensure that it remains at healthy levels and to maintain our region’s competitive economic advantage.
o We must preserve and protect these waters now and for future generations. That will be our legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Therefore, in order to update the regional water management system and ensure that the Great Lakes are protected, the Governors and Premiers signed the Great Lakes Charter Annex in 2001.
On December 13, 2005 the Annex Implementing Agreements were signed by the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers. Once enacted, the signed agreements will provide the necessary framework to help the States and Provinces to protect the Great Lakes Basin. The Great Lakes Governors and Premiers continue to work together to ensure the sustainable use of the waters of the Great Lakes."