Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wisconsin Expected to Pass the Compact, Ohio is still negotiating

It appears as if the Great Lakes compact is still alive as Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle called for a special legislative session on April 17 where it is supposed to be ratified.

Wisconsin Rep. Scott Gunderson helped negotiate a compromise for the stalled legislation. Initially Wisconsin Republicans allowed the legislative session to end without passing the compact. They thought that too much power was given to Great Lakes Governors, since just one veto from one governor would not allow a diversion, the votes have to be unanimous.

This is an issue for thirsty communities on the border of the Great Lakes watershed. In theory any rain or water used within the watershed goes back to the Great Lakes. In recent years communities such as Lowell, Indiana have applied for Great Lakes without success. Even though they are physically very close to Lake Michigan, they are technically outside of the watershed and were denied water due to Michigan's John Engler voting no.

Under the recent Wisconsin compromise a legislature committee will have oversight of the Wisconsin Governor's vote.

Also key in the negotiations is that the state will not gain any new authority over groundwater and Wisconsin will not have to implement a statewide conservation program.

What is important here is that no wording of the original compact has been changed. That is part of the controversy in Ohio with Senator Tim Grendell who has similar fears for property rights and the one governor veto power.

As of now the biggest obstacle that faces the Ohio compact is Tim Grendell and the 16other Ohio Senators who oppose the current compact.

If any part of the compact is changed then every state that has passed the compact would have to pass it again, it would in effect kill the bill.

Yesterday Grendell told the Ohio public radio show Sounds of Ideas “I don’t think to prevent water from going to Nevada or some foreign country we have to overly regulate Ohio’s ability to use water for future economic development in its northern counties or convert private water rights to public property.”

Grendell's solution is to try and amend the Ohio Constitution before the end of the year. Grendell's main opponent Ohio state senator Matt Dolan was asked about the prospect of changing the constitution and said there is a time issue with that but that time permitting he would go along with it.

Peter Annin the author of Great Lakes Water Wars, which is a recent book about the compact and the regions water troubles was also on the Ohio public radio show Sounds of Ideas. Annin said: "If Senator Grendell can come up with a way of appeasing his concerns through some other method than changing the compact that completely changes the scenario in Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes Basin."

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