New water-use plan gets Duluth hearing
GREAT LAKES: The plan, which will be reviewed on Thursday,
seeks to toughen up on water diversions.
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
Published August 17, 2005
A plan to limit how much Great Lakes water can be removed
from the region will be reviewed at a Thursday hearing
in Duluth as it awaits consideration by eight regional
governors and Congress.
The new water-use plan, unveiled in July, is considered
tougher than the governors' original 2004 plan. Changes
were made after more than 10,000 comments were submitted,
most saying the original plan didn't go far enough to
stop out-of-region diversions or to promote water conservation.
While the earlier plan limited out-of-region diversions,
the new version essentially bans bulk diversions, with
At a Duluth hearing last October, participants said the
lakes' water should be protected for environmental, recreational,
cultural and economic reasons.
"The negotiators listened to the public and incorporated
their comments into the agreement," said Julie O'Leary
of Duluth, a board member of Great Lakes United. The plan
"is a big improvement over last summer's version
because it makes diversion out of the Great Lakes Basin
very unlikely, and also addresses water conservation within
While some praise the revised plan as being tougher,
others note that it still allows unlimited shipping of
water as long as it's in small bottles and not in ships.
Others complain that it drops any mention of large water-users
helping to pay for Great Lakes cleanup efforts.
The bottled-water issue could become critical now that
Nestle Waters has challenged the governors' existing water-diversion
"It's a challenge to get everyone to agree, with
eight different states and governors, especially when
you get changes in administrations. And it's hard when
you have so many special circumstances, like communities
that sit half-in and half-out of the watershed, or just
outside," said Kent Lokkeseome, Waters Division director
of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "It's
not as easy as simply saying 'no diversions.' That would
Thursday's hearing will begin with an open house and
provide time for verbal and written comments to be submitted.
The plan will have little or no impact on Minnesota because
the state has ample water outside the Great Lakes watershed.
It could affect communities in eastern Wisconsin that
officially sit outside the Great Lakes watershed but which
are thirsty for new water sources.
The new plan also calls for the eight Great Lakes states
and two Canadian provinces to adopt common standards governing
water use within the states. It increases commitments
to reduce water use and bolster conservation in the Great
Lakes watershed. And it further recognizes tribal rights
The plan allows exceptions for diversion to communities
outside the Great Lakes watershed but within counties
that lie at least partly in the Great Lakes basin.
JOHN MYERS covers the environment, natural resources and
general news. He can be reached at (218) 723-5344 or at