Thursday, February 7, 2008

State, Suburbs Need To Heed Southern Water Court Decision

Wisconsin legislators and the public will get their first look at the proposed Great Lakes Compact implementing bill on Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., at an informational State Capitol hearing.

Details here.

After more than two years of delay, we'll see what legislators, various lobbyists and Department of Natural Resources staffers have come up with.

And while certain special interests have been campaigning for months to weaken the bill so that Waukesha business and municipalities might have snap access to Lake Michigan water - - regardless of the regional and national consequences - - there's a new wrinkle that should give the Compact weakeners pause:

A federal appeals court has just ruled that drought-ravaged and over-developed Atlanta cannot make a side deal to get certain waters when the Federal Government holds the ultimate permission.

That message should not be lost on the City of Waukesha, or State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and others who have either tried for a side deal, or who might delay the Compact for so long that the feds might tempted to step in and take control of the Great Lakes.

In other words, when you try to set up a sweetheart deal for yourself to access a shared resource - - say, the Great Lakes - - and there is a federal law in place that says certain diversion procedures must be followed in all cases (The Water Resources Development Act of 1986 provides no exceptions to all eight Great Lakes' states governors approving diversions out of the Great Lakes basin) - - it would be foolhearty to try through back-door applications or language tweaks to get water to Waukesha's out-of-basin suburbs.

Or to weaken, or remove altogether, that lynchpin eight-state provision in the pending Great Lakes Compact, as Lazich, the WMC, the Waukesha Chamber of Commerce, the Metropolitan Builders, and even Waukesha County Exec. Dan Vrakas and others have said, in one form or another.

As I written repeatedly on this blog, this is all spelled out in a crucial Wisconsin Attorney General opinion now 14 months old, but which has been ignored by the rest of the media and dismissed by DNR officials.

If those who are out to sandbag the Compact in Wisconsin get their way, they could end up stirring up the other states, and worse, the Congress, which could look at the appeals court ruling and take back more control over the Great Lakes.

That would show Mary Lazich and her states' rights allies in Ohio who are also trying to stall the Compact through an absurd effort to send this seven-year, US and Canadian negotiation back for more drafting that it is the Congress that has the ultimate say in major US water policy planning.
Time for Compact supporters to get serious about passing a good bill for Wisconsin that is also mindful of the risks the other side is taking.

An excellent argument by Steven Schmuki of the Waukesha Environmental Action League, (WEAL), for the Strong Compact is here.

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