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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes United Sustainable Waters Watch # 9


Seven months after signing the Annex 2001 plan for protecting the Great Lakes against large-scale diversion, the region's ten governors and premiers have finally released a timeline to negotiate the formal, legally binding agreement that would carry out the promises of the annex.

The governors and premiers plan to present a draft reform agreement to the basin public in June of this year, followed by a 90-day comment period. All ten jurisdictions have agreed to hold public meetings to accept citizen comment on the draft plan. They will then revise the draft plan based on the public comment and complete a final document for signature by all ten governors and premiers in late November.

The new agreement is intended to protect the region from bulk water export and diversion by reforming state and provincial water use law to protect the environment rather than only the interests of human water users. By focusing their water use laws on environmental protection and treating all water proposals the same whether intended for use inside or outside the Great Lakes basin, the governors and premiers hope to make future rejections of damaging bulk water export and diversion proposals immune from challenge under U.S. trade laws or international trade agreements.

The timeline is ambitious, given that the parties took almost two years to agree just to the principles of the original Annex 2001 document. The scheduled November completion date would allow conclusion of the process before any change in the lineup of regional executives. At the end of this year the governors of Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are leaving office and the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and New York will stand for reelection. The premier of Quebec may also call an election this year. Ontario will have a new premier next month.

The negotiating group and its subcommittees

The governors and premiers have appointed a group of at least twenty negotiators, a minimum of two from each jurisdiction, to write the new agreement. The executives are still considering possible means for including the governments of sovereign basin tribes and First Nations, some of which border the lakes and connecting channels.

The negotiating group has three subcommittees, responsible for 1) the substance of the agreement itself, that is, the ways in which water use law would be reformed, chaired by Illinois Office of Water Resources Director Don Vonnahme, 2) the means for making the agreement binding on the states, chaired by Matt Hare, natural resources policy coordinator for Michigan Gov. John Engler, and 3) the means for making the agreement binding between the provinces and across the binational border, chaired by Western Hemisphere Acting

Team Leader Bill Carr of the Ontario Office of International Relations and Protocol.

The governors and premiers have also invited 24 organizations, including Great Lakes United, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and the National Wildlife Federation, to advise the negotiators in their efforts. This advisory committee consists of representatives from six key sectors of basin civil society, including environmental groups (five representatives), industry (eight), recreation and tourism (one), municipal water suppliers (four), agriculture (three), and hydropower and other utilities (three). Nine of the 24 advisors will be from Canada. As with the involvement of tribal and First Nations governments in the actual negotiations, the governors and premiers have also not yet determined how First Nations nongovernmental organizations will be involved with the advisory committee. The first meeting of the advisory committee will be held March 15 in Washington, D.C.

Prospects for success

To all appearances the premiers and governors are following through with the commitment they made last June to negotiate a strong agreement. However, the state and provincial negotiators have not been given sufficient resources to carry out their work. Budget shortfalls in all the jurisdictions have resulted in travel restrictions so severe that only two face-to-face meetings among the negotiators are scheduled before the draft plan is made public in June. Most of the negotiations are planned to take place by conference call. The states have pledged limited financial resources for the overall effort, but most of the money is going to centralized administrative support and outside legal help. The states and provinces have not allocated extra resources to their negotiators, nor offered any resources to the advisory committee. This is surprising given the importance of the negotiations.

Like the negotiators, the advisory committee is also scheduled to meet only twice before delivery of the draft plan. The negotiating team has also outlined no structure for receiving input from the advisory committee. This could be problematic, given the likely diversity of views on the committee. Some members of the advisory committee may not even agree that the governors and premiers should be negotiating a water use reform effort in the first place.

For official information on the negotiating or advisory committee process, contact Pete Johnson at the Council of Great Lakes Governors, or 312-407-0177. For unofficial analysis of the negotiation effort or advisory committee process, contact Reg Gilbert at Great Lakes United, or 716-886-0142; Sarah

Miller at the Canadian Environmental Law Association, or 416-960-2284 x213; or Andy Buchsbaum at the National Wildlife Federation, or 734-769-3351.


Reg Gilbert Senior Coordinator

(716) 886-0142, fax: -0303

Great Lakes United Buffalo State College, Cassety Hall 1300 Elmwood Ave. Buffalo, NY, 14222

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