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Great Lakes Article:

DEQ chief:Preventing water diversion is Job 1

Bay Area Times
Jeff Kart

Bay-area residents need to make their voices heard on efforts to protect Michigan's water for future generations, state Department of Environmental Quality Director Steven E. Chester said Tuesday in Bay County.

Chester was in town for a routine visit with local staff members from the DEQ office in Bay City. He said two initiatives to protect waters in the state from large withdrawals - the Michigan Water Legacy Act and the Great Lakes Charter Annex - are the DEQ's top legislative priorities this year.

The Michigan Water Legacy Act, now working its way through the Legislature in Lansing, would regulate large withdrawals of surface and groundwater in the state to guard against harmful impacts to lakes and streams.

The Great Lakes Charter Annex, also known as Annex 2001, is an international proposal affecting Michigan and other Great Lakes states. Annex 2001 would govern large water withdrawals in and outside the Great Lakes basin, establishing water management and conservation standards. The Water Legacy Act is a complement to Annex 2001; the international proposal will ultimately require Congressional approval.

Chester said residents shouldn't take the Great Lakes for granted. "If we don't act to ensure that diversions don't occur, at some point arid areas of the United States are going to demand Great Lakes water," he said. Chester encourages residents to write in with comments on Annex 2001 by Oct. 18 and attend upcoming town hall meetings on the Water Legacy Act.

An evening meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9 in Clare County, but a location hasn't been set, a DEQ spokesman said. Two bills were introduced in March for the Water Legacy Act, one each in the House and Senate. Chester said there is resistance from some Republican leaders in the Senate, who want the state to hold off on the act until a groundwater mapping bill passed last year is finished. But Chester said that mapping project will take about two years to complete, only focuses on groundwater withdrawals and doesn't include agricultural information. He thinks the state needs to act sooner.

Michigan has its own concerns with Annex 2001, he said, namely that it continues to give any Great Lakes state the power to veto a diversion from the basin, which Michigan now has under federal law.

2004 Bay City Times.

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