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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Michigan: State house Committee Pass Great Lakes Compact


December 5, 2007


Patrick Schuh/517.214.4288

Cyndi Roper/517.490.1394

(Lansing)—The Michigan House of Representatives Great Lakes and Environment Committee today approved legislation ratifying the Great Lakes Compact, taking a crucial first step toward protecting Michigan's water resources from abusive withdrawals and diversions. The multi-state, and a companion multi-nation agreement establishes basic guidelines to prevent Great Lakes water diversions and ensure resource sustainability; the Compact requires each state to pass implementing legislation.

"As the Great Lakes State, we must be leaders in providing water resource protection. As other states still undecided consider whether to approve the Compact, they look to see how Michigan weighs in on this historic agreement for our waters," said David Holtz, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. "The House committee action today demonstrates that Michigan—which has the most at stake in protecting the Great Lakes—has taken this important action in moving the Compact forward toward eventual approval by the full Legislature."

The legislation (House Bill 4343) will ban the diversion of water outside the Great Lakes Basin and it signals that Michigan is serious about protecting the Great Lakes from exports. Upon legislative approval, Michigan will be the third of eight states to ratify the Compact.

A strong package of companion bills implementing the Compact that protect Michigan's inland waters from damaging withdrawals by extending public control over all lakes, rivers and streams and giving residents a role in permit decisions also received a boost by the committee. Those bills were moved forward when the committee conditioned support for controversial water withdrawal technology favored by Senate Republicans to passage of the stronger water withdrawal protections in the Democratic bills.

Water use legislation this year has taken different directions in the House and Senate with the Senate's proposal relying soley on untested technology—a web-based assessment tool supported by industry groups—to determine how much water can be taken from Michigan's inland rivers,streams and groundwater. Local citizen groups and anglers concerned about the impacts on fishing streams throughout the state have expressed concern that the Senate approach would ignore local input thereby allowing large-scale water withdrawals that could impact local waterways.

"Any legislation that is passed must provide clear public oversight and strong protections against over pumping Michigan's water, said Holtz. " We applaud the house committee's leadership in passing the Compact and eagerly await passage of the strong implementing legislation to which it is tie-barred."

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Clean Water Action is Michigan's leading grassroots environmental organization with over 205,000 members statewide. Individuals can learn more about the organization and its campaigns