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Great Lakes Article:

Canadians mull latest Great Lakes water plan
Some query motive of Ohio's governor
By Tom Henry
Toledo Blade
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 comment.

"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 gubernatorial charter.

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 sovereignty."

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. Bartz said.

 

 

 


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