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Great Lakes Article:

Michigan moves on lake-water control
By Tom Henry
Toledo Blade
01/21/04


Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholmís proposal to begin regulating water withdrawals in her state could finally bring Michigan into compliance with a charter that each of the Great Lakes states signed in 1985.

And it could create momentum for a new effort Ohio Gov. Bob Taft has been leading to assert regional control over the worldís largest source of fresh surface water.

"Almost 20 years later, it is an embarrassment that we are the only state that hasnít lived up to its end of the bargain," Ms. Granholm said in a sweeping, eight-page speech about water yesterday to the Michigan Legislature.

Most of Michiganís boundaries are made up of Great Lakes water, but it is the only Great Lakes state that never had followed through on a number of promises Great Lakes governors made under a 1985 charter - their first cohesive effort to keep Great Lakes water from being diverted or transferred out of the region in bulk.

Among other things, Michigan never registered all water users of 100,000 gallons per day or more. Those typically include golf courses, municipal sewage plants, power plants, and factories. The state also failed to set clear objectives for water conservation, said Dick Bartz, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water.

"Itís been a tremendous sticking point among the other states that Michigan was never really in compliance," Noah Hall, water programs manager for the National Wildlife Federationís Great Lakes office in Ann Arbor, said.

Annex 2001, a proposed regional water pact named after the year in which the latest effort was agreed upon in principle, would upgrade the 1985 charter to reflect changes in international law, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A team of legal experts consulting governors recommended the upgrade to brace the region for the possibility that water someday could become viewed by courts as a commodity as tradable as oil.

The Council of Great Lakes Governors, chaired by Mr. Taft, is expected to reconvene this year to finalize Annex 2001. They hope to show the U.S. and Canadian federal governments that the region is capable of managing the Great Lakes by itself, officials have said.

Further questions about Annex 2001 have been raised in the wake of the high-profile Nestle Ice Mountain flap and its focus on groundwater.

Under Ms. Granholmís proposal, permits would have to be obtained by new industries using more than 2 million gallons a day in a month or 100 million gallons a day in a year. The permit holders would be subject to review for environmental impact.

Nestle Ice Mountain, which withdraws up to 576,000 gallons daily, would be grandfathered in with other pre-existing industries, officials said.

The standard would be stronger than Ohioís, where there still is no restriction on water withdrawal, Mr. Bartz said.

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