Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wisconsin Groups Engage In Water Policy Hysteria, Double-Speak

A group of 19 Wisconsin business and trade organizations sent the Wisconsin legislature a letter on Tuesday that would have put a smile on George Orwell's face because it urged the adoption of something they called a "Strong and Fair Great Lakes Compact."

This is a bogus conceit: what the groups want is neither fair or strong.
They want the opposite, for the following reasons:

The current draft Great Lakes Compact - - already approved by four of the eight Great Lakes states' legislatures - - establishes first-ever region-wide rules and standards for communities wishing to move water out of the Great Lakes basin.

It even includes special exemptions for easy access for communities like New Berlin that straddle the Great Lakes basin boundary, as well as a process for out-of-basin communities like Waukesha.

You want unfair?

Current federal law has no standards or rules governing when or why an individual Great Lakes state governor can block a proposed diversion - - the opposite of what the Compact achieves.

Furthermore, the so-called "strong" Compact these groups say they support is actually a greatly-weakened version.

That's because it removes standards, proceedures and guarantees that make it more likely that diverted water would be returned to the Great Lakes.

Maintaining Great Lakes water levels, and requiring conservation and a demonstrated need for a diversion prior to a community's application is the entire purpose of the Compact.

What these groups - - led by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce - - are proposing is in reality a loophole-ridden agreement that weakens, not strengthens, the Compact and preservation of the world's largest supply of fresh surface water.

And it pretends that seven others states, Canada and native tribes in both countries have fewer water rights than does Wisconsin.

The letter builds on the effort by the WMC, through willful actions last week by Assembly GOP leaders, to push the Compact back into renegotiation after five years of meetings that produced the draft Compact in 2005.

Regional negotiations that included business community input, and that produced, through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the exemptions to help out New Berlin, Waukesha and similarly-situated communities in Wisconsin and the other seven Great Lakes states.

Because several states of those states have already moved to approve it, and now have the common Compact version in their state law - - calls for Compact renegotiation are disengenuous and potentially-destructive.

And lo and behold, a day after the groups sent their "strong and fair" letter to the legislature on the 19th - - the WMC praised the action in a separate news release on the 20th.

Let's be honest, and stop the spin and manipulation of events and language:

Renegotiation, arguing for impossible Compact amendments or stalling its approval in Wisconsin - - the only Great Lakes state without a bill under debate - - is simply a way to kill it.

And that would expose the Great Lakes to wholesale exploitation - - all to
please businesses and groups with water-dependent annexations, road-building and sprawl-development in Waukesha County, and not Great Lakes protections, at the top of their agendas.

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