Legislature needs to finish work on protecting lakes
Published May 10, 2007
The Michigan Legislature is consumed by the politics of stopping the hemorrhaging of the state budget. Unfortunately, that struggle also continues to divert it from its other responsibilities, among them the duty to protect the Great Lakes. Only one state in our region has acted thus far with due diligence to ratify a new water compact -- and it isn't this one, we're sad to note.
Minnesota deserves all the credit possible for leading the way on the proposed Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway Basin Compact. At the heart of that convention are stringent rules governing water diversion policy. Surely, here is an area where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground when it comes to water rules.
It has been two years and counting since the governors of the eight Great Lakes states and the heads of the bordering two Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec reached agreement on the compact. Since then, a lot of legal water has been running under the proverbial bridge.
In addition to the controversies within our own state over the loophole in the current law allowing large water diversions for bottling plants, the Great Lakes continue to be eyed from near and far. The western states are suffering from an unprecedented long-term drought that has caused them to undertake billions of dollars in water projects -- among them a nearly 300-mile pipeline to direct water from northern Nevada into Las Vegas.
A desalinization plant in Yuma, Ariz., idled for decades, is now being refurbished to supply water for deprived communities. Fights over the Colorado River are increasing in fervor as the bitter realization sinks in that with global warming some water supplies from natural mountain glacial reservoirs may be only a memory someday.
Those factual anecdotes, collected in an April 4 New York Times story entitled "No longer waiting for rain, an arid West takes action," is yet another wake-up call for Michigan and the other Great Lakes states who will soon find unwanted attention directed their way from water consumers who will argue that legally, the Great Lakes are a national resource, not a regional one.
More to the point, they will argue that since the Constitution specifically forbids states from regulating interstate commerce, it may then be postulated that water is just another commodity (since the state now apparently treats bottled water as such). Thus, they will argue, its sale and use cannot be constrained by local or regional laws. Impossible? Perhaps. Yet failure to erect at the very least some semblance of a legal defense now is just brainless.
The proposed Great Lakes Compact is more than just a fig leaf. It addresses key issues that bear directly on out-of-basin and in-basin regulation that would reconcile competing laws as well as construct powerful legal barriers against interlopers from outside the region demanding resources that, once depleted, can never be replaced.
In fairness, Michigan's efforts are not at Square One. Progress has been made in both houses of the Legislature toward ratification. Yet the clock ticks away, as it does on the budget and so many vital issues such as this one, so close to our homes here in West Michigan.
Hidden Cove Park is a secret no longer
Thanks to the efforts of a cadre of volunteers, one of Norton Shores' best-kept secrets is now out in the open. The grandeur of Hidden Cove Park along the Mona Lake shoreline has been revealed through a lot of hard work and back-breaking labor.
The project was undertaken after architects who studied the Seaway Drive corridor listed the then-unkempt park as a natural treasure literally buried beneath overgrown vegetation and debris that hadn't been cleared in recent memory.
What emerged was a new waterfront destination for sunset watchers, picnickers and water lovers. A fine donated sign at the park's entrance will direct visitors.
Many thanks to all who contributed time, money and labor for this community-enriching project. It will be one enjoyed by many this coming summer.