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Lake Erie water gets undiverted attention
Ohio House votes to protect resource
By Aaron Marshall
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published December 14, 2006

Columbus- Beat it, Arizona - Lake Erie water isn't for sale.

That's the bottom line of a multistate pact restricting the sale of water from Lake Erie and the four other Great Lakes that passed the Ohio House 82-5 on Wednesday.

The measure, called the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, deals with protecting Great Lakes water against diversions. One notable exception: businesses that already use Lake Erie water in products.

Rep. Matthew Dolan, a Russell Township Republican who sponsored the bill, said companies from around the world would have to relocate to the Midwest to take advantage of Great Lakes water.

"Send a message to California, Arizona, China and Japan that we're open for businesses and what you need we have here and are willing to protect it," Dolan said. The compact must be adopted by all eight Great Lakes states, Congress and two Canadian provinces.

While no states have come seeking to buy water, the compact is designed to ensure that Ohio water stays in the hands of Ohio lawmakers and is not subject to the whims of Congress.

The measure now moves to the Ohio Senate where it is vehemently opposed by State Sen. Tim Grendell, a Chester Township Republican, over private property concerns. Grendell and other opponents are concerned that the compact has language that they think will convert privately owned water such as lakes, ponds and wells into public trust property.

Hoping to quell those concerns, Dolan slipped an amendment into the bill that states that any private property rights held by individuals "exist today, they will exist tomorrow and they will exist when the compact is ratified."

It wasn't enough to stop a few doubters from voting against the bill, such as Rep. Bob Gibbs, a Holmes County Republican.

"There is quite a bit of concern with the public trust doctrine - if it supercedes that language or not," said Gibbs. "I think that's an area the courts will be sorting out."

The adopted language also allows Ohio to back out of the compact if other states change the language or do not act on the compact within three years.

 


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