Thursday, January 24, 2008

Water Compact update

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, was passed in the Indiana Senate a week ago and is expected to pass the Indiana House. The Council of Great Lakes Governors website is already reporting the legislation as passed in the Indiana House. It shouldn't be a problem since the law passed 47-0 in the Senate.

The new Compact is part of the effort of the eight Great Lakes states to put effective laws to limit diversions. The current system for large water withdrawals would not hold up in court according to most legal experts.

To outright ban water diversions may not hold up to international trade agreements if water was ruled as a good, and not a finite resource.

Even the Supreme Court ruled in Sporhase v. Nebraska that groundwater is an article of commerce that subjects it to the dormant commerce clause in the Constitution. Thus, to outright ban water diversions would be unconstitutional.

For the new Compact to be effective it would have to pass through both chambers of Congress in all eight states and be signed into law by the Governor. Then the Compact would have to be passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress as well as the two Canadian provinces.

So far the only two states that have passed it are Illinois and Minnesota. It was nearly passed in New York last year but failed due to a technicality. New York lawmakers are supposed to pass the bill again this session.

Wisconsin is the only state that has not yet introduced any legislation, but that is supposed to happen this year.

In Michigan there are two active bills that have both been amended recently. All of the recent attention on national water issues should keep this on the legislative agenda for 2008.

Other promising news is the recent Congressional override of President Bush’s veto of WRDA. WRDA provided legal authorization of a myriad of Great Lakes programs. This suggests strong current support for the Great Lakes at the national level.

Many people are concerned that all of the people leaving the Midwest for southwestern states will weaken support for the Great Lakes nationally, since Great lakes states (especially Michigan) will lose House members.

By Jason Tafilowski

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