Thursday, December 13, 2007

After Two Years, Wisconsin Has Not Ratified The Great Lakes Compact

Readers of this blog know that a frequent theme is the need for Wisconsin and the rest of the eight Great Lakes states to sign and implement the Great Lakes Compact.

That is an agreement among the states, with advisory partners in the two Canadian Great Lakes provinces, to create a first-ever legal framework for the approval of diversions of water from the Great Lakes - - making up 95% of the country's fresh surface water supply.

Given a warming climate, falling lake levels, damaging pressures from invasive species, pollution and development, preserving all the waters in the Great Lakes basin is an absolute necessity.

So when the Great Lakes governors and premiers signed the draft Compact in Milwaukee on December 13, 2005, there was real hope that the states would adopt and implement it so there could be a rational process for deciding if, when and where to move Great Lakes water.

Without the Compact in place, the only legal framework is a federal law that says all the eight Great Lakes states must unanimously approve a diversion, or it cannot happen - - while the Compact sets up rules, standards, conservation measures and even a lower threshold of diversion approval for a community (the home state only, not all eight) like the City of New Berlin, whose boundaries "straddle" the Great Lakes basin boundary.

In the two years since the Governors' signing, several demoralizing things have happened to stall the Compact's approval an diminish its prospects.

1. Only Illinois and Minnesota have approved it.

2. Ohio is resisting mightily.

3. Wisconsin doesn't even have a draft bill under consideration, with a state legislative study committee closing up shop this fall after property-rights' and development interests centered in Waukesha County sand-bagged the committee's consensus planning effort.

4. New Berlin's State Senator, Mary Lazich, (R), led the opposition on the study committee, along with allies in the business community and Waukesha County legislative delegation - - even though the Compact would make the diversion that New Berlin is seeking more likely to get approval.

5. Lazich and opponents in Ohio have joined forces: Lazich has said she wants to return the Compact for more negotiations (it took almost five years to produce the draft agreed to by the governors) - - a scheme that would lead the Compact to wither and die.

6. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is edging towards approving New Berlin's diversion application, undercutting the spirit of cooperation among the states upon which the pending Compact is based.

All in all, Wisconsin leaders have dropped the ball when it comes to getting the Compact legitimized, and approved.

More delay weakens the document's intent, discourages the other states from moving forward with it, undermines Wisconsin's long water conservation history, and puts the Great Lakes more and more at risk.

Two years, and we have little to show for it, except Lake Michigan and Superior hitting record lows, making diversions without justification somewhere between political folly and scientific, public-policy insanity.

Hardly the Wisconsin way.

More details here.

1 comment:

Joseph Thomas Klein said...

Tell Waukesha to talk to the Internation Joint Commision if they want water. Get an injunction if they don't.

As you may know we (The United States of America) have a treaty obligation regarding the great lakes.

ARTICLE VI of the United States Constitution states:

"This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

The key point here: all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land


States as follows in ARTICLE II

Each of the High Contracting Parties reserves to itself or to the several State Governments on the one side and the Dominion or Provincial Governments on the other as the case may be, subject to any treaty provisions now existing with respect thereto, the exclusive jurisdiction and control over the use and diversion, whether temporary or permanent, of all waters on its own side of the line which in their natural channels would flow across the boundary or into boundary waters; but it is agreed that any interference with or diversion from their natural channel of such waters on either side of the boundary, resulting in any injury on the other side of the boundary, shall give rise to the same rights and entitle the injured parties to the same legal remedies as if such injury took place in the country where such diversion or interference occurs; but this provision shall not apply to cases already existing or to cases expressly covered by special agreement between the parties hereto. It is understood however, that neither of the High Contracting Parties intends by the foregoing provision to surrender any right, which it may have, to object to any interference with or diversions of waters on the other side of the boundary the effect of which would be productive of material injury to the navigation interests on its own side of the boundary.


It is agreed that, in addition to the uses, obstructions, and diversions heretofore permitted or hereafter provided for by special agreement between the Parties hereto, no further or other uses or obstructions or diversions, whether temporary or permanent, of boundary waters on either side of the line, affecting the natural level or flow of boundary waters on the other side of the line shall be made except by authority of the United States or the Dominion of Canada within their respective jurisdictions and with the approval, as hereinafter provided, of a joint commission, to be known as the International Joint Commission.

End treaty quote.

Hence, without an approved compact, any diversion has no legal standing unless approved by he International Joint Commission.