Great Lakes summit set for Dec. 13
State, Canadian officials to consider blocking removal
By Tom Henry
Published November 18, 2005
The Great Lakes region's eight governors and two Canadian
premiers have chosen Dec. 13 as their day to consider
signing a pair of documents intended to block any future
attempts to pipe Great Lakes water across North America
or export it in tankers to other parts of the world.
The summit, to take place at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee,
would be the first of its kind since Great Lakes governors
and premiers met in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in June, 2001,
to begin negotiating a regional water compact called Annex
The annex is a proposed update of a 1985 charter signed
by the governors but not the premiers. Further details
of the Dec. 13 event are to be released today at the fifth
annual water conference at the University of Toledo's
college of law.
Dick Bartz, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources'
water division, confirmed yesterday that invitations had
just gone out. He said a regional advisory body to which
he belongs, called the Water Management Working Group,
settled on a workable compromise Nov. 11.
That working group was formed by the Chicago-based Council
of Great Lakes Governors in 2001 to write the proposed
"The hope is they'll sign it," said David Naftzger,
executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.
Environmental groups said they were pleased by the compromise
The Great Lakes are a national treasure. Diverting them
or allowing portions of them to be exported by tanker
"would be like selling parts of the Grand Canyon,"
said Kristy Meyer, of the Ohio Environmental Council.
Manufacturers and other large users of water, including
agriculture, had a voice in the negotiations. So did officials
addressing emerging issues, such as bottled groundwater
"The environmental community didn't get everything
they wanted, but it's definitely an improvement,"
said Cheryl Mendoza, of the Chicago-based Alliance for
the Great Lakes.
The framework for the proposed Annex 2001 accord began
when the Council of Great Lakes Governors named Gov. Bob
Taft its chairman at the Niagara Falls summit four years
Mr. Taft, in turn, named Ohio DNR Sam Speck as his point
man on the issue. Both were at Mr. Taft's cabinet retreat
yesterday and unavailable for comment.
Molly Flanagan, of the National Wildlife Federation's
Great Lakes office in Ann Arbor, said her group is pleased
by Mr. Taft's leadership on this issue.
Mr. Taft and New York Gov. Pataki are the only two governors
from the 2001 summit who are still in office. Both provinces
also have new premiers.
"Governor Taft's leadership has been critical to
getting us to this point," Mr. Naftzger said. "Governor
Taft has kept everyone focused on this issue."
Though diverting Great Lakes water to the parched Southwest
or other parts of the country seems unfeasible because
of the billions of dollars it would cost, various proposals
have arisen since 1959. Plus, the lakes are expected to
become more coveted this century if predictions hold true
that the Earth's population will continue to expand, its
average temperatures e will continue to rise, and its
supplies of fresh water will become more scarce or polluted.
Governors signed the 1985 charter after seeing billions
of federal dollars going to the booming West for various
projects after former California Gov. Ronald Reagan was
elected president in 1980.
Only three years earlier, the $8 billion Trans Alaska
Pipeline System had been completed - to some, an example
of the extent to which the government was willing to go
to move natural resources.
In 1998, a Canadian firm called the Nova Group secured
a permit from Ontario to export 156 million gallons of
Lake Superior water a year to Asia. The company relinquished
the permit following an outcry. But governors were advised
that their 1985 charter wouldn't hold up in court in light
of changes that had occurred in international law under
the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
So negotiations began on an update to the 1985 charter.
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