mull latest Great Lakes water plan
Some query motive of Ohio's governor
By Tom Henry
Published November 26th, 2004
One of Canada's parliamentary committees has begun taking
testimony on the latest plan to curb Great Lakes diversions
and bulk withdrawals, another sign that some influential
Canadians are questioning the motives of a regional effort
led by Gov. Bob Taft's administration since 2001.
The review is the first of its kind on the federal level
of a proposal called Annex 2001, written to close legal
loopholes in a 1985 charter among governors.
Canada's Parliament and the U.S. Congress were expected
to have hearings on the annex after governors and premiers
signed it, something which now is not expected to occur
until at least the summer of 2005.
No hearings were expected on the federal level in either
country before governors and premiers had reached an agreement
among themselves, Dick Bartz, Ohio Department of Natural
Resources water chief, said. Mr. Bartz is one of the architects
of the draft version put out July 19 for 90 days of public
"Given the comments that were received, though,
I guess it's not surprising that somebody [in Canada's
Parliament] would take it up and hold hearings,"
Mr. Bartz said.
Supporters hail Annex 2001 as a measure that could both
encourage water conservation and halt any large-scale
attempts to divert water to parched states such as California,
Arizona, and Nevada, as well as potential exports to other
parts of the world.
But after three years of near-silence, an opposition
movement has arisen. A citizens' group called the Council
of Canadians, for one, questions if U.S. governors had
ulterior motives in proposing Annex 2001. The council,
which claims to have a membership of 100,000, alleges
numerous exemptions were included to accommodate growing
communities on the American side of the border.
Not all Canadians agree. The Canadian Environmental Law
Association has supported Annex 2001, as has Great Lakes
United, one of the region's larger coalitions of environmental
groups and one that was founded in response to the 1985
Other large environmental groups such as the National
Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council
have voiced their support. Yet many lawyers in both the
United States and Canada who specialize in water-distribution
laws, as well as several academic researchers on both
sides of the border, have expressed mixed feelings.
Steven Shrybman of the Sack Goldblatt Mitchell law firm
in Toronto, who represents the Council of Canadians, testified
before Canada's Parliamentary Committee on Environment
and Sustainable Development. He said the annex "puts
further at risk the ecological integrity of Great Lakes
waters and represents a significant challenge to Canadian
Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources recently issued
a statement saying the province will not sign Annex 2001
without substantial changes. Governors said in 2001 they
felt it was important to include Ontario and Quebec this
time, something that didn't occur in 1985.
The parliamentary committee taking testimony in Canada
hopes to issue a report soon. Its chairman, Alan Tonks,
could not be reached for comment.
Great Lakes congressmen have been kept apprised of Annex
2001 developments. None has called for hearings before
the governors and premiers make their final decision.
It has been four years since Congress has held hearings
pertaining to such issues. Congress gave Great Lakes governors
veto authority for diversions under the 1986 Water Resources
Development Act. It last amended that act in 2000, Mr.