March 27, 2006

Watchdog to probe US water diversion to Canada

By Marcy Nicholson

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - North American environmental
groups, upset over water diverted from the U.S. into Canada,
have asked an international watchdog to investigate the matter,
the coalition said on Monday.

"Canada and the U.S. are violating the international laws
designed to protect our shared lakes and rivers from pollution.
An independent inquiry by the CEC (North American Commission
for Environmental Cooperation) will uncover why Canada and the
U.S. have failed to resolve the dispute by not enforcing the
century-old treaty," said Sierra Legal Defense Fund lawyer
Robert Wright.

The International Boundary Waters Treaty was established in
1909 to resolve water-quality disputes along the U.S. and
Canadian borders.

Sierra, along with U.S. and Canadian environmental groups,
said both countries violated obligations when North Dakota, in
a bid to prevent flooding last year, briefly drained water from
the Devils Lake in North Dakota into Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

North Dakota is scheduled to reopen the drainage system on
May 1 at an increased capacity of 100 cubic feet per second.
The water will flow into the Sheyenne River and eventually into
Lake Winnipeg.

A temporary filter was installed last year to prevent fish
from entering Canadian waters.

The Manitoba government and North American
environmentalists want a permanent barrier installed, to keep
out all invasive species, organisms and pollutants, before
water is drained from Devils Lake this year.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, created under
the North American Free Trade Agreement, offers a "spotlight
remedy" to the issue, said the commission's legal officer Katia

The fact-finding investigation may take two years to
complete and the commission doesn't have the authority to make
recommendations or to impose sanctions.