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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: State must ratify compact to protect our precious lakes
The Oakland Press (MI)
Web-Posted February 22, 2007


Michigan markets itself as the Great Lakes State. The lakes surround the state, carving out the unique mitten shape for the Lower Peninsula and offering yearround recreational opportunities, as well as an economic engine worth tens of millions of tourism dollars annually.

So, Michiganians must wonder why it is that Minnesota, rather than the Great Lakes State, appears to be the first to approve the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact to protect the precious resource.

The goal of the compact is fairly simple, despite its mouthful of a title. It seeks to protect the valuable water resources of the lakes and combat future efforts to siphon off that water by states or agencies outside the immediate region.

The Minnesota House approved House file 110 on Feb. 1, which adopted the compact. The Minnesota Senate authorized it Feb. 15.

At this time, there appears to be no other compact member states - including Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio - that have passed bills adopting the compact in both houses. Two Canadian provinces are also signatories to the compact.

The state legislatures have to ratify the compact before it can go to the U.S. Congress for adoption consideration.

The Great Lakes are already victims of invasive foreign species such as the zebra mussel and the goby. An Asian carp species is held at bay only by an electric barrier in southern Lake Michigan. In recent years, we have seen water levels in the lakes drop precipitously, wreaking economic havoc on the boating and recreation industries. Scientists and climatologists can debate the cyclical nature of those fluctuations, but the value of the lakes to the state and the region is indisputable.

Michigan has lost a seat in Congress, and if population trends hold, we stand to lose another in a few years. Simultaneously, populations and congressional representation in water-hungry states such as Arizona and Nevada continue to grow. The compact is essential because we may face a time when states in the Southwest seek diversion of Great Lakes water for drinking or irrigation.

Only about 7 percent of Minnesota's land mass lies within the Lake Superior watershed. But 100 percent of Michigan's land mass lies within the Great Lakes watershed. If any state stands to lose the most from water diversion, it is Michigan. The state should be at the forefront of this effort, yet the Legislature let a bill adopting the compact die in 2006.

State Rep. Chris Kolb, D-Ann Arbor, along with Reps. Steve Bieda, DWarren, and Paula Zelenko, D-Burton, introduced a bill last year to have Michigan adopt the compact. That bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, Great Lakes, Land Use and Environment, where it died a quiet death at the conclusion of last year's legislative session.

It is crucial for the state that Bieda reintroduce the legislation and Oakland County's contingent - both Democrat and Republican - get firmly behind its passage.

At some future point, the state may decide it wants to sell water to other states and regions. For the resource to remain plentiful and a potential future viable commodity, Michigan needs to ratify the compact this year.

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