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Great Lakes Article:

State Water Activists To Meet With Granholm Over Ice Mountain Water Takings
Sweetwater Alliance
01/08/2003

LANSING, MI - Just hours after being sworn in as the state's forty-seventh and first-ever woman governor, Jennifer Granholm called for a meeting with members of water activist group Sweetwater Alliance to discuss the future of water takings by the Ice Mountain Spring Water Company, a division of Nestle Waters North America.

Members of Granholm's transition team approached the group after their sizable presence at the governor's inauguration ceremony.

The bold blue flags of Sweetwater, a now recognizable symbol of citizens' resistance to water privatization in the state, could be seen flying throughout the crowd. Members of the group's Detroit chapter also unfurled a 25-foot banner reading "Stop Ice Mountain" directly in the governor's line of sight.

"It's encouraging to see the new governor's responsiveness, especially on her first day in office," said Jon Keesecker, a Mount Pleasant organizer with Sweetwater Alliance. "But what citizens are looking for is that she act on the positions she took as attorney general. She may have lacked the authority then, but as governor she has the power to do what she recommended the state do almost a year ago: to declare this project illegal and shut Ice Mountain down."

In September 2001, then-state Attorney General Granholm weighed in on the legality of Ice Mountain's bottling operations in Mecosta County in a letter to then-Governor John Engler.

"It is...my view," she wrote in the 2001 letter, "that withdrawing groundwater and bottling it for sale in interstate commerce for use outside the Great Lakes basin constitutes a diversion or export...within the meaning of the federal law."

The 'federal law' cited by Granholm--the 1986 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)--was designed to give Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers the power to manage and limit withdrawals and diversions from the Great Lakes Basin for use outside the region. Under WRDA, any one of the Great Lakes governors or premiers can "veto" a proposed withdrawal or diversion once the council of governors and premiers has been convened.

"By giving the governors the ability to veto any diversion or export of Great Lakes water, Congress placed the responsibility for interpretation and implementation of the statute primarily with the governors of the Great Lakes states," Granholm wrote in the letter to Engler. "In keeping with this responsibility, I urge you to invoke the consultation process available under section 1109 of the WRDA...and consult with the other Great Lakes governors and premiers to determine whether and to what extent this and similar removal proposals should be permitted."

Granholm has not yet indicated whether she will follow her own recommendation and invoke the consultation and review process for the Ice Mountain bottling proposal now that she has assumed the office of governor.

"Clearly she has made herself a target by weighing in on this issue as attorney general," said Robert Bartle, an organizer with Sweetwater North. "It will be difficult for her not to invoke WRDA and review this project closely now that she has cited it as the governor's responsibility to do so."

"You can be sure that we and thousands of other citizens will be there to make sure she does not neglect her new 'responsibilities'," Bartle said.

Ice Mountain began bottling at a facility near Stanwood, Michigan in May 2002. A lawsuit brought by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation against Ice Mountain will be heard in May of this year.

Sweetwater Alliance is a direct action human rights group dedicated to the defense and liberation of essential resources from corporate control. For more info, visit Sweetwater on the web at www.waterissweet.org.

 

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