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Great Lakes Article:

Plan to limit water exports from Great Lakes debated
Experts divided on proposals during session at UT
By Tom Henry
Toledo Blade
Published November 13th, 2004

The only consensus that seems to have emerged about a proposed set of agreements written to keep Great Lakes water from leaving the region is that the status quo is unacceptable.

Environmentalists, academic researchers, and lawyers continued to express differing views at the University of Toledo yesterday about the agreements known as Annex 2001.

The differences of opinion even come within their own ranks, as some environmental groups clash with others over the potential effectiveness of the proposed measures.

Some say Annex 2001 would protect the region from intruders, while others claim it is a water-permitting scheme to accommodate sprawling communities on the American side of the U.S.-Canadian border.

Annex 2001 is a proposal that Gov. Bob Taft's administration has led the last three years on behalf of the Council of Great Lakes Governors in an attempt to unite the region on a common water law policy.

About 100 people who attended the fourth annual national water conference sponsored by UT's College of Law first heard complexities of how a myriad set of Western water laws has been applied to disputes in parched states, such as Arizona.

Then they heard how the annex, touted as an effort to bring the water-rich Great Lakes region into compliance with international law, is hardly immune from controversy itself.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sam Speck, who chaired the advisory committee behind Annex 2001, defended it as a substantial upgrade to current laws.

But even he admitted a rift expressed by some factions of Canada could be so difficult to overcome that the governors eventually may have to decide if they should just hammer out an agreement among themselves.

Officials are trying to do something almost unprecedented: reach an agreement between eight states and two provinces that neither nation's federal government finds objectionable.

Many of the concerns expressed in Canada have come from a group called the Council of Canadians, which claims to have a membership of 100,000.

Sara Ehrhardt, the group's national water campaigner, said they in no way support the status quo, but fear Annex 2001 has too many exemptions for business, agriculture, and sprawling communities on the American side.

Marie Mason, spokesman for Sweetwater Alliance, an activist group in Michigan, said those concerns are not limited to Canadians. She and Cathy Rose, a member of the Lake Michigan Federation and the Milwaukee chapter of the Sierra Club, urged a reopening of the public comment period. It started in mid-July and lasted 90 days.

Annex 2001 would allow diversions of less than 1 million gallons a day over a 120-day average. Permits would be required for net usage that exceeds 5 million gallons a day. Communities within 12 miles of the water basin would be exempt. Opponents claim the 120-day average would not encourage the agricultural sector to conserve water.

There are no proposals pending to divert or export Great Lakes water from the region in bulk.

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