July 10, 2008

Granholm Signs Water Protection Pact

By Tina Lam, Detroit Free Press

Jul. 10--With the stroke of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's pen Wednesday at a Saugatuck beach, Michigan, which calls itself the Great Lakes State, became the last of eight states to formally approve a compact to protect the Great Lakes from having their water diverted to other regions.

The measure now goes to Congress, possibly by the end of the month. Advocates are hoping it could be ratified by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush yet this year, said David Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

.It is expected to go to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, and a transportation committee whose chairman is Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota. Oberstar is a key supporter of the compact. In the Senate, Naftzger said it's not clear where the measure would end up.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed it June 27, and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed the measure July 4. The eight regional governors negotiated the compact in December 2005.

The agreement allows any of the eight governors to veto a diversion outside the Great Lakes basin, except in limited circumstances.

Naftzger said he sees no obstacles to approval, especially because there are 41 other compacts in other regions regulating water, including a pact among states bordering the Colorado River. "There's a long history of Congress deferring to states, and our expectation is that will continue," Naftzger said.

"There's been a lot of momentum on this, and now we need Congress to bless it," said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago.

"We're always worried some major interest group will oppose it, but so far, none has materialized," said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. "That's a good sign."

The Michigan Farm Bureau, the state Chamber of Commerce and business groups praised the compact's passage, saying it will protect the state's water while allowing growth.

Michigan was among the last states to pass the compact because it adopted wide-ranging measures regulating water use in the state, including a one-of-a-kind water withdrawal tool that tells users where they can safely draw water without damaging the supply.

Naftzger said his council isn't yet ready to pop the champagne corks. "We'll wait for the big celebration until it's through Congress," he said.

Some fear if ratification drags out several years, the Great Lakes states could lose members of Congress to southern and western states, tipping the balance against approval.

Contact TINA LAM at 313-222-6421 or [email protected]


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