Friday, June 13, 2008

Ex-Michigan Governors In Bi-Partisan Call For Strong Compact Bill

Dave Dempsey has posted an explanation of the push in Michigan for a strong bill to implement the Great Lakes Compact with the Public Trust Doctrine as the guide.

That doctrine, dating back before statehood to the Northwest Ordinance, places an obligation on government to recognize water as a public resource protected in trust for the people.

Wisconsin's constitution incorporates the doctrine, and state law, including the recently-passed bill to implement the Compact here, does the same.

The issue, whether in Great Lakes diversion permissions or numerous other water questions in the state is, and will continue to be, just how vigorously the doctrine is enforced.

Sometimes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does a solid job with its enforcement role, and sometimes not.

Local governments have to be involved, too.

Allowing Summerfest to close access to Lake Michigan during festivals is an outrageous violation, though there is now circuitous access to the lake on sidewalks and paths provided by the new state park behind the festival grounds.

It was a creative, but expensive, solution.

The recent ban on fishing along a stretch of the Rock River in Fort Atkinson on a publicly-financed riverwalk weakens the doctrine.

And some communities in Waukesha County have limited access to lakes through parking restrictions, violating the doctrine's spirit.

It's refreshing to see former Michigan governors in both parties urging strong legislation to elevate the value of the Public Trust Doctrine.

This bi-partisan spirit was missing from portions of the Compact approval debate in both Ohio and Wisconsin, where false fears about property and water rights were used as obstacles to smooth legislative processes.

The objectors did not carry the day.

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