Ontario demands tougher protection
for Great Lakes in U.S. deal
Detroit Free Press
Published November 15th, 2004
TORONTO (AP) -- Ontario will not sign an international
deal to limit how much water can be diverted from the
Great Lakes unless changes are made to better protect
the basin, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said
He said the province fears a growing thirst for water
among expanding U.S. suburbs could fuel demand for large-scale
diversions from the five lakes, which are the world's
largest system of fresh surface water.
"If Chicago were to fully utilize their canal system
now, they could lower all the Great Lakes by up to six
inches," Ramsay said at a news conference. "Ontarians,
and the government, clearly want a no diversions agreement."
Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states -- Illinois, Indiana,
New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and
Wisconsin -- reached draft agreements last July to amend
the original 1985 Great Lakes Charter to limit how much
water could be diverted from the lakes to other regions
in the basin.
A side deal to the so-called Great Lakes Charter Annex
gives the eight governors the power to veto proposed U.S.
water diversions but requires only that Ontario or Quebec
be consulted about such proposals.
Ramsay said he is not prepared to jeopardize the talks
in order to get a similar veto for Ontario because he
expects the governors would use their own veto powers
to block any such diversions.
"We would love to have that (veto power) ideally,
and that's why I don't want to walk away from the table,"
he said. "The agreements are not as strong as Ontario's
laws, which prohibit water transfers out of the province's
three major water basins."
Dr. Elaine MacDonald, a staff scientist at the Sierra
Legal Defense Fund, said the annex only covers diversions
of more than 1.3 million gallons per day, compared with
Ontario regulations that require a government permit for
any daily diversions greater than 13,000 gallons.