8 states pitch plan to divert Great
CTV.ca News, Canada
Published September 20th, 2004
They may not go bone dry, but environmentalists are warning
a plan to divert more Great Lakes water to the United
States could be a significant drain on the massive freshwater
"Effectively it's putting a for sale sign on our
Great Lakes," said Sara Ehrhardt, water campaigner
for the Council of Canadians.
Famous for being the world's largest freshwater ecosystem,
the Great Lakes provide drinking water for a third of
all Canadians, as well as some 35 million Americans.
For the past six years, a Canada-imposed moratorium has
put a plug in attempts to divert any more water than was
already flowing south.
But now, the eight American states bordering the Great
Lakes are proposing new guidelines that would turn the
taps on new and increased diversions.
Organized under the banner of the Council of Great Lakes
Governors, the lakeside states are proposing a series
of agreements -- known as the Implementing Agreement for
Annex 2001 -- that would allow new, limited, strictly-controlled
According to Ohio's director of natural resources, the
states are simply trying to exercise their sovereign rights.
"There are no standards for diversions now,"
Sam Speck says. "Canada doesn't have any voice in
diversions states want to make."
Nevertheless, Ontario has already signed on.
David de Launey of the province's Ministry of Natural
Resources says Ontarians shouldn't be alarmed the government
is at the table.
"Ontario's purpose here is to prevent large-scale
or long-range diversions," de Launey says.
Even if small-scale diversions are allowed, however,
some experts fear it won't take for the trickle to grow
into a torrent.
Water consultant Ralph Pentland told CTV News that, combined
with the effects of climate change, dramatically expanded
diversion could send water levels plummeting between five
and 10 feet.
"That would virtually destroy the navigation industry,
virtually destroy the hydro power industry, destroy all
fish wildlife and recreation."
Decrying the proposed agreements, the Council of Canadians
warns the changes could open the door to unlimited, long-distance
water diversion that are directed exclusively by U.S.
"Our federal government is abdicating its responsibility
to protect Canada's shared waters and is allowing U.S.
economic development interests to set the agenda for Great
Lakes water management," the Council said in a statement.
The new guidelines are not yet a fait accompli -- as
governors are yet to sign. Then, the scheme still needs
the approval of the U.S. Congress, as well as the legislatures
in each of the participating states.
The Canadian government has yet to float its opinion
on the controversy.
With files from CTV's Peter Murphy