Monday, June 9, 2008

Compact Signing Requires Continuing Vigilance

Ed Garvey notes the continuing threat to the Great Lakes from arid western and southern states, regardless of the eight-state regional Compact just passed in Wisconsin to bar most diversions beyond the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin.

Ed is right: Congress could set the Compact aside, or legislation could be fashioned by drought-plagued, over-developed states to weaken or undo the Compact's diversion prohibitions.

What has to be monitored very carefully in Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states, however, is the coming push for diversions that are allowable under the Compact to communities close enough the basin to qualify for consideration - - such as Waukesha - - and thanks to the GOP assembly caucus - - communities slipped into a new loophole in Wisconsin's Compact implementing law, like portions of Burlington or Mukwonago, that are in Walworth County, which does not straddle the Great Lakes basin.

That loophole created by the Wisconsin legislature could easily be duplicated in the other Great Lakes states, especially in Ohio, and lead to more water being diverted great distances than was intended when the Compact was drafted in 2005.

There are huge logistical and financial barriers to shipping Great Lakes water to Phoenix or Atlanta. Barriers, of course, can be resolved and overcome if the need is great and the costs are bearable.

Those barriers are far far less problematic in the Great Lakes states, where communities near the basin can argue forcefully that they should be allowed access to the water.

Waukesha's probable application for a diversion by the end of the year needs to be carefully scrutinized to make sure it meets the Compact's no-exception return-flow requirement and that does not provide the means to kick off a new round of suburban sprawl on open land that is needed for agricultural production, and that requires more highway spending to areas not served by transit.

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