Proposal aims to restrict diversion of Great Lakes
By Don Davis
Forum Communications Co.
Published Wednesday, January 17, 2007
ST. PAUL – A proposed agreement to greatly restrict movement of water in and out of the Great Lakes basin generally won’t affect Minnesota, supporters say.
The only effect would be that “we can’t relax our laws” dealing with water, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said.
The House Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill approving a compact among eight Great Lakes states. The compact still must be approved by other House and Senate committees. It also must win support in other states bordering the lakes, not to mention congressional passage and a presidential signature.
Despite the red tape awaiting the compact, Huntley and other supporters said legislation is important.
“It would prevent any significant amount of diversion,” said Huntley, past president of the Great Lakes Commission.
However, it would allow communities such as some on the Iron Range to continue to pump from wells on the Lake Superior side of the continental divide and discharge sewage on the other side.
The compact would prevent any significant new or increased use of Great Lakes water outside the basin.
Too many people are not concerned about Superior, said Allison Wolf of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “Vastness can make the lake seem invulnerable, but that would be misleading.”
Through the years, there have been proposals to use Superior water for other uses, including recent talk that pipelines could be built along Interstate 35 to supply water to Texans. That would not be allowed under the compact. Neither would shipping Superior water to ethanol plants in Minnesota’s farm belt.
No opposition has surfaced for the compact in Minnesota and Huntley predicted it will pass all eight states by the end of 2008.
Two Canadian provinces on the Great Lakes already have agreed to the compact’s terms and their federal government is considering the document.
Readers can reach Forum Communications reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707 or firstname.lastname@example.org