Friday, February 22, 2008

Compact Killers Are The Real Zealots

A few weeks ago, the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities pretty sharply criticized some environmentalists.

Those environmentalists had argued that if the Great Lakes Compact were implemented in Wisconsin, it should ban the shipping of water moved from a Great Lake to land that a diverting community annexed after December 13, 2005.

Here is a pdf to that Alliance publication. The Alliance argued that what the environmentalists were proposing could stunt Waukesha's growth, and shift development to Northern Illinois, where the US Supreme Court decades ago grandfathered a water diversion from Lake Michigan that the draft Compact cannot alter.

Why did the environmentalists suggest some limitations on water diverted to land annexed after December 13th, 2005?

That was the date that the eight Great Lakes Governors signed the draft Compact (in Milwaukee, by the way) - - the historic water management agreement now working its way through the states' legislatures, and which is about to be rolled out for formal legislative debate in Wisconsin.

Sources report that what the environmentalists had proposed - - and they would argue their suggested diversion limitation would discourage sprawl and minimize diversion volumes, and increase water conservation, too - - will not be in the Wisconsin draft.

At the time, I thought the term "zealots" was unnecessarily harsh:

Webster's Dictionary indicates that "zealot"connotes excess, extremes, fanaticism, "vehement activity," and other perjoratives.

The use of that term by the Alliance of Cities surprised me, because the environmentalists I know consider themselves urbanists, city-lovers - - pretty much the kind of groups and people that the Alliance represents.

When I worked for Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, his office and the Alliance were pretty friendly. Those are good people there.

So with that in mind, how do should we label what the Assembly GOP leadership and their allies in the business community are proposing in a fullt-court press on their side of the Compact debate?

With a great deal more clout than conservation-minded environmentalists, these power-brokers and their water-carriers in the Assembly are proposing a lot more than tying the use of diverted water to the date the Compact was signed.

They have suggested such wholesale changes in the Compact that the whole deal would have to be sent back to the states for renegotiation - - and its certain death.

Powerful business groups, trade associations and key Republican legislators - - Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, (R-West Salem), and State Rep. Scott Gunderson, (R-Waterford) - - know full well there will be no further negotiations.

That's because it took five years to write the Compact and four of the eight Great Lakes legislatures have already approved it.

There's surely an element of partisanship in their 11th-hour maneuvering and reaching out to like-minded GOP allies in the Ohio legislature, as they all know that Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, is chairman of the Great Lakes Council of Governors.

With Wisconsin the last state among the eight to see a bill introduced (Waukesha-area Republican legislators and other allies also derailed an effort last year to produce a bi-partisan bill in a study committee), the GOP Assembly leaders think they see an opportunity to embarass Doyle.

Again, their concern for the Great Lakes is plummeting about as fast as the historic falls in water levels in Lakes Superior and Michigan.

I have been blogging about these opponents and their strategies often this past week, with other posts dating far back into 2007.

The Wisconsin-Ohio Compact Killing axis dates to last year, too.

Furthermore, the changes the Wisconsin Compact killers said the wanted last week want would render the Compact useless.

They want a simple majority of Great Lakes Governors, meaning five of eight, to be able to approve a request for a diversion of water to a community that is outside the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin.

That's a prescription for net water loss in the largest supply of fresh surface water on the planet.

It's like saying: "Wisconsin To Great Lakes Region: Drop Dead."

There is no way that three states could allow the other five to take water that belongs equally to all eight.

And to Canadians and native tribes, too.

That is why federal law for the last 22 year has mandated that all eight Great Lakes Governors must approve diversions of water that flows beyond the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin, and why that principle is in the Compact.

It's the only way to protect a shared resource.

A level-headed organization like the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorially calls the argumentation over the unanimous-approval rule "little more than a red herring."

I agree.

To justify their last-minute sabotage, Wisconsin's Compact killers say they are trying to write a better, stronger, more fair Compact, but that's pure spin, and they know it.

What they are really trying to do is procedurally destroy the Compact, principally so that Waukesha business interests and road-builders can add value to their projects using Lake Michigan water.

And placing profit, politics and partisanship over Great Lakes preservation.

If that that isn't zealotry on behalf of greed, power and partisanship - - the antithesis of protecting a shared resource for the common good - - then I don't know what is.

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