Great Lakes group on track for
deal to control water sales
The Toledo Blade
Despite leadership changes, Great Lakes governors and
premiers are on track to meet their self-imposed deadline
for finalizing a 2001 agreement that calls for local controls
on the amount of water that can be diverted or exported
in bulk from the lakes.
"I think we’ve got a pretty good consensus among
all the states and provinces," said Sam Speck, director
of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, who has helped
shepherd the proposal on behalf of the Council of Great
Gov. Bob Taft is the chairman of the governors’ council,
which agreed in 2001 that the region needed to adopt its
own standard for withdrawals from the Great Lakes, the
world’s largest source of fresh surface water.
Called Annex 2001, the principal concept was signed June
18, 2001, by a different set of governors at a ceremony
in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Details for implementing it were
left up to current governors and premiers, with a suggested
deadline of three years, or June of 2004.
Five of the eight Great Lakes states have new governors;
Canada also has installed a new premier in one of its
two Great Lakes provinces.
Though it initially slowed down the process, the transition
should not hold up finalization of the agreement by June,
Mr. Speck said.
One of the biggest tests will come this fall, when a
working group helping to implement details will issue
a major report for public review, officials said.
Among other things, the annex calls for no major withdrawals
or exports unless the same amount of water can be returned
to the lakes in better quality, so there’s a net improvement
of the system.
Industry has been reluctant to embrace the annex because
of that requirement, claiming it is vague and could set
a precedent that results in an unfair regulatory burden
for the region. It has worried if the annex could hamper
industry expansion or construction of new facilities along
the lakes, such as power plants.
George Kuper, president of the Ann Arbor-based Council
of Great Lakes Industries, which represents some of the
region’s biggest companies, said yesterday the proposed
annex is "based on faulty guidance and is unnecessary."
But he said industry is willing to participate, to help
bolster efforts for local control. "We don’t want
federal control more than anyone else will," he said.
He said the working group’s report will weigh heavily
on industry’s position.
Mr. Speck said concerns cited by industry are being smoothed
out with an emphasis on best management practices for
The annex was drafted largely as a show of strength:
Governors and premiers have said they wanted the two nations
to see that the lakes can be managed locally, instead
of from Washington and Ottawa.
Governors saw a need to update a nonbinding agreement
on water withdrawals that had been signed in 1985. The
reasons were multifold: global water shortages, an expanding
population, rising Earth temperatures, and changes in
international law. Some people view the latter as a right
to trade water on the open market like oil, timber, or
The clincher was a 1998 effort to export Lake Superior
water to Asia, officials have said. Acting on a legal
opinion they received in 1999, governors drafted the annex.