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Great Lakes Article:

Lawmakers sign pledge to protect Great Lakes
By Amy F. Bailey
The Associated Press
Published July 12th, 2004

LANSING, Mich. (AP) State House and Senate Democrats on Monday presented Gov. Jennifer Granholm with a pledge signed by several dozen lawmakers to support legislation that would regulate large-scale water diversions from the Great Lakes.

The presentation at the state Capitol was part of a continuing effort to encourage Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature to take up a two-bill package to require companies and farms that withdraw water to get permits.

The legislation would require permits to withdraw more than 2 million gallons of water a day or more than 100 million gallons a year. More than 1,000 existing Michigan operations fall into that category, including large farms, utilities, golf courses and factories.

The bills were introduced in March, but House and Senate Republicans have not yet scheduled a hearing on either of them.

Jeff Irwin, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, said each of the Senate's 16 Democrats signed the organization's pledge to "protect Michigan's lakes, streams and freshwater acquifers by supporting legislation that will strictly regulate large-water withdrawals."

Forty-five of the House's 46 Democrats also signed the pledge, spokesman Dan Farough said. Rep. Alma Stallworth of Detroit was the only Democrat who hadn't signed it by Monday afternoon, Farough said.

Reps. Dan Acciavatti of Chesterfield, John Stewart of Northville, Tom Meyer of Bad Axe and Jack Brandenburg of Macomb County's Harrison Township were the only Republican lawmakers to sign the pledge, Irwin said.

Republican legislative leaders have said they don't want to take up the legislation until they see the results of a law passed last year that requires an inventory of groundwater supplies, which could take about two years.

"Once we know all the facts, we can begin working with interest groups such as yours to draft meaningful regulations," according to a letter sent to the Michigan League of Conservation Voters by the Senate's 22 Republicans.

Granholm, a Democrat, criticized the Republican position.

The governor and other Democrats at the news conference said it's important to get the regulation in place before states in the Southwest or other regions push to divert water.

"I signed the mapping bill and I think it needs to happen, but it's not a sequential issue," Granholm said at the news conference. "Why are we waiting for a doomsday scenario to happen? We need to move now."

Granholm pointed out that Michigan is the only state in the region that hasn't enacted laws to regulate large withdrawals although it was among the states that signed the Great Lakes Charter in 1985.

House Great Lakes and Tourism Committee Chairman David Palsrok said Monday he hasn't been approached by House Democrats or the Granholm administration about taking up the proposed Water Legacy Act.

"I have heard no request other than through the media," the Manistee Republican said. "I'm certainly interested in working with anyone who shares my concerns about the basin. It has been a little frustrating with all the demagoguery going on. It's too important an issue."

(The water withdrawal bills are Senate Bill 1087 and House Bill 5634.)

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