Great Lakes compact (Saginaw, Vernon, Republic: house, transfer, price)
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WASHINGTON -- A compact to prevent the diversion of water from the Great Lakes has widespread support in Congress and a strong chance of winning approval by the end of the year, lawmakers said Wednesday.
House and Senate leaders from the region said they had not detected any significant opposition to the plan and would aggressively push to complete the process this year to provide more protections for one of the world's largest sources of fresh water.
"It will be done by the end of this session, I assure you," said Rep. James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who is leading efforts in the House.
Senate leaders, however, were more cautious, noting their chamber can be unpredictable because rules allow individual members to block legislation from moving forward. Election year politics also can add complications.
"I cannot tell you with confidence that it will pass this year -- but I will tell you with confidence that it will pass," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. His Republican colleague, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, said he was hopeful it would pass before the end of the year.
The agreement prevents remote states or countries from tapping into the lakes from their natural drainage basin with rare exceptions. It also requires the states to regulate their own large-scale water uses and promote conservation.
States in the region have sought the pact amid concerns that the worldwide freshwater shortage would lead thirsty regions to tap into the lakes.
"The Great Lakes define our economy, our recreation and in many ways, our way of life," said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.
The states have worked for several years to bring the protections to Congress for consideration. Governors in the region negotiated the plan for more than four years before reaching an agreement in December 2005. Michigan was the last of the eight states to approve the pact earlier this month.
The White House has not voiced any opposition to the agreement, and both major presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, have said they support the compact.
In a statement, Obama said, "We must do everything we can to protect the lakes and preserve their water supply for future generations of Americans."
The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have adopted a nearly identical document, but cannot join the compact because U.S. states are barred from making treaties with foreign governments.
Lawmakers noted that these interstate water compacts are very common. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia currently belong to at least one interstate water compact, and many states belong to more than one.
"It is the overwhelming will of the states in the Great Lakes basin to manage this national treasure, and this agreement will ensure that the lakes are used sustainably," said Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich.
Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, has said the ban on diversions has a significant loophole: It allows bottled water to be shipped from the region.
Stupak spokesman Nick Choate said the congressman was reviewing the compact "to see what its implications are for bottled water" but had not made a decision on whether he will support the plan.
I can get a case of Kirkland bottled water from Costco, each 20 ounce bottle is roughly 50 cents (actually somewhat less). At 128 ounces to the US gallon, that's $3.20 per gallon -- cheaper than gasoline, but not by much. Hopefully, the price will keep the water closer to home.
Although a limit on bottled water shipments out of the state would have been nice, the Republican controlled Michigan State Senate wasn't about to put restrictions on the Nestle corporation.
And the law that finally got through the legislature does establish other limits on water diversion. Great Lakes water diversions would be more likely to go to growing cities just outside of the watershed instead of to Arizona.
ya i wish they would limit the bottle water thing as well. but at least they got this done. maybe in the future they will put limits on it.
Because of the bottled water there is a law. Only 70 gallon per minute can be pumped from wells without a special use permit. They are expensive and hard to get. I have been working on one for a customer for two years. He has over $5000 in it and has not been billed from me yet.
WASHINGTON - The Great Lakes Compact zipped through the Senate Friday, winning approval by unanimous consent.
The action came two days after a friendly Senate Judiciary Committee hearing presided over by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
" I commend the Senate today for recognizing the urgent need to protect the Great Lakes and quickly passing the Great Lakes Compact. I know the people of Wisconsin feel strongly about the importance of preserving the Lakes for future generations," Feingold said.
Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, who attended the hearing, said the compact is needed "to preserve and protect one of our national treasures for us and future generations."
The compact legislation sailed through the Senate in nine days thanks to bipartisan support Great Lakes senators.
Gov Jim Doyle said their efforts meant " we are one step closer to starting the next phase of the compact (and) the hard work that needs to be done implement it."
Senate Democratic and Republican leaders included the interstate water agreement among several uncontested bills that Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., brought to the floor for clearance. Most senators had already left for a month-long break.
Supporters in the House got the compact through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but the full House left for August recess without voting on it. The House could act on the compact in September, however Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., has raised questions on whether the agreement could be successfully challenged under international trade law.
Stupak said such challenges would undermine the compact's efforts to ban large-scale water transfers out of the region. His concerns are similar to those raised by Food & Water Watch, a consumer rights group.
Stupak, whose congressional district borders Huron, Michigan and Superior lakes, has asked for comment from the State Department, the U.S. Trade Representative's Office and the International Joint Commission.
Nick Choate, Stupak's spokesman, said his boss will decide what his next step is after he gets responses from the two agencies or the commission.
"He sees no need to rush (to a House vote)," Choate said.
But Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes office, urged the House to move quickly.
"Itís time to seal the deal and protect our lakes, our drinking water, our economy and our way of life," Buchsbaum said.
Both chambers must approve the agreement among the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec for it to become law.
The compact would for the first time establish a consistent standard for reviewing proposed uses of water from the Great Lakes. The agreement bans long-distance diversions or withdrawals from any of the lakes unless all eight governors approve the withdrawals. Any withdrawals approved would be subject to regulation.
The compact also would establish a commission to collect scientific data on how the lakes are affected by diversions.
The Mecosta wells are famous for having reduced water levels in streams, that in turn feed Lake Michigan/Huron.
It's all tied together.
Regardless, I agree with everyone... this is a big step forward.
Not just there. Saginaw county had a big problem with irrigation wells.
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