Editorial: State should lead, not follow, on lakes law
Detroit Free Press
June 8, 2007
Minnesota got there first, and now Ontario has claimed second place.
Michigan, with all its Great Lakes shoreline, should be deeply embarrassed to let other governments get ahead of us in passing legislation to protect the lakes from out-of-basin water withdrawals. Illinois, in fact, may well be next, and New York isn't far behind -- leaving fifth place wide open for now.
The water compact involved here is a joint effort among the states and provinces that share the Great Lakes. It isn't perfect, but it sets up a legally defensible framework to prevent water raids from afar, be it the American Southwest or an arid region on the other side of the globe. Once all the states enact the common language, they need to get it through Congress as well -- a process that surely would go more smoothly if the region has worked quickly and if the state with the most at stake acted as if this were a priority.
State Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, introduced Michigan's version of the legislation back in February, with enough cosigners to pass it immediately. The less experienced House may require additional time for education. But in all likelihood the wheel-spinning so far this year on the state budget has simply sidetracked it, which is pretty sad testimony to how well Lansing leadership is managing any of the state's major interests at this point.
Low water levels only emphasize the importance of managing this wonderful freshwater resource so that it can keep renewing itself. In the most self-interested economic sense, it's imperative to keep the water here -- and have others relocate to use it -- rather than leave it potentially vulnerable to regions that seem to have built so cavalierly beyond their capacity to ensure water supplies. Lawmakers need to give Great Lakes protection the quick attention it deserves.