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GLIN==> NWF Press Release: Multi-State "Agreement" on Great Lakes a Step Forward, But Has Flaws

Posted on behalf of Becky Lentz <lentz@nwf.org>

NWF Press Release: Multi-State "Agreement" on Great Lakes a Step Forward,
But Has Flaws

June 19, 2000

ANN ARBOR, MI -- A purported "agreement in principal" for governing the
withdrawal of water from the Great Lakes falls short of its well-intentioned
purpose of protecting the Lakes, according to the nation's largest
conservation group.  The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) says the draft
document, released today by Michigan Governor John Engler, needs more
specific safeguards to keep the world's greatest supply of fresh water from
being depleted by bordering states and provinces or diverted beyond even the
U.S. and Canada.

"Governor Engler is offering a good start, and he is to be commended for his
leadership in making this draft plan public - but it is only a start," said
Tim Eder, director of NWF's Great Lakes office.  "Other states and provinces
need to insist that the final plan ensures that Great Lakes water is used
wisely in this region so we can be sure it won't be wasted by the rest of
the world."

"As written, the draft could well allow our water to be exchanged for
ill-defined 'benefits' without proving first that a new withdrawal or
diversion is even needed. We know Michigan doesn't want to put the Great
Lakes up for grabs to the highest bidder so they need to fix this plan,"
added Eder. "The standard put forth in the draft plan for evaluating
proposals to withdraw or divert water should require that any applicant must
first prove they have used water conservation practices to their fullest
extent, and that they have exhausted all possible alternatives to
withdrawing additional Great Lakes water. Only then should the plan discuss
compensation and benefits."

The resolution released by Governor Engler includes language requiring
those who would withdraw Great Lakes water to prove that their proposal,
together with compensation measures, would "create a net benefit to the
Great Lakes ecosystem."  But the idea of a net benefit is not based on
specific goals or measurable benchmarks. And the draft plan fails to stress
the fact that the Great Lakes can be harmed by water use from within the
region as well as by diversions to far off places.

"The first duty is to protect the health of the Lakes  and with it the
people and wildlife that depend on them  and that means using common sense
water conservation measures, " said Jim Goodheart, executive director of the
Michigan United Conservation Clubs, NWF's largest state affiliate.
Goodheart added, "we can't expect others to conserve our resource if we
don't do it ourselves."

In fact, under the U.S. Constitution and global trade agreements, rules
governing the sale of Great Lakes water outside the Great Lakes region can
be no more stringent than those applied within it.  That makes a multi-state
plan without regional conservation measures all but useless.

"The Governor's plan is like going straight to the dessert bar without
eating our vegetables first," said Eder.  "Just like eating right, applying
conservation principles to water uses here at home will help build a
healthier, stronger system."

Once local water use is addressed, the plan's provisions for long-distance
diversions can also be beefed up.  "A key premise of the Governor's plan
should be to keep Great Lakes water where it belongs - here in the Great
Lakes region," said Goodheart.  "The goal must be to prevent any new or
increased diversions that would harm the ecosystem except in the most rare
of circumstances, and when no possible alternative exists. Just like medical
doctors, our credo should be 'first do no harm.'"

NWF and MUCC agreed that the idea of not allowing any new withdrawals that
don't result in an "improvement" to the resource is a laudable concept, if
it is prefaced with conservation and prevention first. "We look forward to
working with Michigan and the other states and Ontario to help define
improvement and to help set benchmarks for restoring and protecting vital
freshwater resources. Governor Engler has done us a service by opening the
dialogue and we look forward to working with him and his fellow Governors
and Premiers to refine this draft," said Eder.

The nation's largest member-supported conservation advocacy and education
group, the National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life
to protect nature, wildlife, and the world we all share.  The Federation has
educated and inspired families to uphold America's conservation tradition
since 1936.  NWF's Great Lakes office has been a key player in protection of
the Lakes from pollution, over-development and water withdrawals.

MUCC is the NWF's largest state affiliate with over 100,000 individual
members and 500 affiliated clubs. MUCC is committed to the conservation and
enhancement of Michigan's natural resources through education, advocacy and
promotion of quality outdoor recreation experiences. Recognized as the voice
of Michigan's sportsmen and women, MUCC advocates for common-sense,
scientifically based policy decisions regarding our natural resources.


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