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Great Lakes Article:

Opinion: Protect our Great Lakes from misuse
Petoskey News Review
Published November 10th, 2004

We don't see the Great Lakes as akin to soy beans or pork bellies, just some commodity - but some politicians do.

Several candidates for political office, during interviews with the News-Review editorial board, pointed to trouble brewing for the Great Lakes under a revised agreement between lake basin states and Canadian provinces.

We couldn't agree more. Rather that stopping diversions of Great Lakes water, the so-called Great Lakes Charter Annex Agreement, known informally as Annex 2001, appears to actually permit the practice.

The pact would not try to ban all out-of-basin diversions. Instead, it would subject them to what supporters describe as tough regulations meant to protect the lakes from misuse, the Associated Press reports.

Since 1986, federal law gave governors of any Great Lakes state veto over exports of water outside the system's drainage basin, which extends more than 750 miles from the St. Lawrence River to beyond the western shore of Lake Superior.

A 1998 proposal to ship Lake Superior water to Asia prompted warnings that the law could be struck down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution and free-trade pacts.

So along came Annex 2001, which provides for the inevitability of water leaving the Great Lakes. Diversions averaging more than 1 million gallons a day over 120 days would require unanimous approval of the eight states.

Critics say the plan makes a crucial error by conceding that diversions cannot be stopped. We agree and side with the observation of Annex 2001 opponent, Traverse City environmental attorney Jim Olson, who says the agreement underestimates the powers held by the states under the common-law principle that the lakes are a public trust, not an economic commodity bought and sold on some trading floor.

Like we said, the lakes aren't pork bellies.

If adopted, Annex 2001 will leave the lakes with less protection than they have today. These lakes are not only critical to our health and well being, they are probably the biggest contributor to our tourism economy here on the shores of Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan.

Let the governor and state elected officials know how you feel. The eight state governors and province premiers hope to sign a final version next spring, then send it to the state legislatures and Congress for ratification.

To dig up an old saying from the 1980s, "Just Say No." We can and will protect our lakes from poachers, pumps and politicians.

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