Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Christian Science Monitor Covers Great Lakes Compact Issues

It's getting hard to keep up with all the stories about the Great Lakes Compact - - the pending regional plan to control diversions and encourage conservation to preserve Great Lakes water supplies.

This time, it's the august Christian Science Monitor, with a dateline from Waukesha, arguably at ground zero, with neighboring New Berlin, in the diversion debate.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson probably pushed the issue past a tipping point this fall when he suggested, in a Nevada speech, the transfer of Great Lakes water from Wisconsin to the US Southwest.

Politicians, editorial writers and assignment editors reacted both to Richardson's political pandering and the backlash to it across the Great Lakes region, generally agreeing that Richardson had a bad idea and that the Great Lakes states better get serious about ratifying the Compact.

Wisconsin, as has been repeatedly observed, is the only one of the eight Great Lakes without any legislation considered to implement the Compact since it was signed in draft form by the Great Lakes governors in December, 2005.

A bi-partisan Wisconsin bill is said to be ready for introduction.

But its fate in the Wisconsin Assembly is unclear, because that is where Waukesha's conservative legislators are controlled by anti-Compact forces in the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce.

These groups are certainly playing with fire, because if the Compact is weakened, or fails to win unanimous approval from all eight Great Lakes states, the likelihood grows that pro-diversion forces in the south and west could lower existing legal barriers and encourage water movement away from the Great Lakes basin.

In winning their short-sighted and narrowly-focused effort to gain easy access to Lake Michigan, Waukesha County business interests might open the floodgates for water movement a lot farther away, inexorably reducing the amount of water in the Great Lakes basin, including what they could have won by applying for it under the Compact's first-ever, region-wide, cooperative checklists and procedures.

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