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Great Lakes Article:

Michigan caps leak in water protection law
By Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Published April 21, 2006


LANSING
-- House Democrats claim there's a leak in the new Great Lakes protection law, signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm only two months ago.

While it puts a lid on large-scale water withdrawals from the lakes, they say the statute doesn't prevent water bottlers from sending it out of state in thousands of plastic containers.

A new package of bills, introduced this week, would fix that by subjecting water bottling operations to legislative approval. The Democrats say their bills effectively would prevent water bottled n Michigan from being sold outside of the Great Lakes Basin.

"Our Great Lakes and other fresh waterways belong to the people of Michigan, not private companies that want to ship it off to other states," said Rep. Gary McDowell of Rudyard, one of the sponsors.

McDowell and other Democrats said they're worried about the potential expansion of a plant in Mecosta County that bottles and sells water under the Ice Mountain label. The plant draws ground water from a spring and also has a contract to buy water from the municipal supply in the community of Evart.

The state's water law, hailed as a breakthrough when Granholm signed it Feb. 28, sets up rules for preventing damage to lakes or streams from water pumping, guards against schemes to send Michigan water outside the Great Lakes region through canals or pipelines and promotes water conservation.

With it, Michigan joined seven other states and two Canadian provinces passing laws to counteract any efforts by dry states -- or countries -- to obtain millions of gallons of Great Lakes water.

The Democrats' proposals would amend the law by categorizing bottled water as a diversion and requiring that lawmakers approve such diversions. They would boost the penalties for violations from $1,000 to a range between $25,000 and $3 million.

Republicans criticized the legislation, saying it's unnecessary and breaks a bipartisan agreement that led to passage of the new law. The law now requires water bottlers to get state permits that define how much water they can pump out of the ground.

"Contrary to their claim of no regulation on bottled water, there is a common-sense permit process that doesn't harm businesses," said Matt Resch, press secretary for House Speaker Craig DeRoche of Novi.

You can reach Gary Heinlein at (313) 222-2470 or gheinlein@detnews.com.

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