Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Compact Implementation Bill In Michigan Falls Short

The State of Michigan's legislature finally passed its Great Lakes Compact legislation, so when Gov. Jennifer Granholm inks her signature, Michigan will become the seventh of the eight Great Lakes states to approve the Compact.

All in all, this is a good thing, with the Compact moving one step closer to Congressional approval, and a new level of protection against wholesale diversions.

But noted activist and writer Dave Dempsey describes the shortcomings in Michigan's compromised Compact implementing bill, as business interests hung tough and won some victories during weeks of negotiations.

Nearly the entire state is within the Great Lakes basin, thus industry fought hard to preserve access to supplies with few controls.

Nestle exports water from a wetlands in the state under the phony-baloney "Ice Mountain," and as long as the containers do not exceed 5.7 gallons, the bottle-by-bottle diversion is unlimited.

It's a serious loophole, permitted by the Compact, a flaw that dates back to Michigan's insistence it be included in the Compact's final draft produced by the region's governors and Canadian premiers in 2005.

Environmental and political leaders from both parties in Michigan were also looking for stronger language in the implementing bill to clarify the Public Trust doctrine's protection of Michigan waters.

The doctrine originated in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, prior to statehood, when water rights for all were crucial to commerce, transport and the sustaining of life - - as is certainly the case today.

Wisconsin incorporates the doctrine into its state constitution, and the law and the principle needs to be fought for and protected with every violation, whether it's access to Lake Michigan behind the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee that is closed during festivals, to the city's riverwalk in downtown Fort Atkinson, where anglers have been shooed off a key stretch for the convenience of new Rock River condo owners.

Fact is - - entrenched industries routinely get served by legislatures, whether for access to water or a thousand other special-interest considerations.

In Wisconsin, the Compact implementing bill approved here made sure, for example, that Lake Superior water would be legally available should Murphy Oil need its projected five million gallons of water daily to operate an expanded refinery in Superior.

So while Michigan adopted a Compact implementing bill that still gives industries too much poorly-regulated access to Great Lakes water, let's not get too high and mighty and attack our neighbor to east.

Wisconsin cut its own deals to keep hometown businesses happy.

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