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July 18, 2006

Contact:  Dave Dempsey, 517-402-1148, davedem@hotmail.com
Chris Shafer, 517-371-5140, shaferc@cooley.edu


A panel funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) has submitted a report recommending steps to assure protection of vital Great Lakes aquatic habitat from disruptions caused by a growing number of proposed energy projects. The panel noted proposals for offshore wind projects in the Great Lakes as well as a history of cooling water intake structures, oil and gas pipelines, and electric cables. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission is now reviewing the report.

The panel said interest in crossing the beds of the Great Lakes with pipelines and in installing wind turbines in the beds of the Lakes, in addition to other proposed lakebed alterations, raises important questions about protection of aquatic habitat that should be addressed through revisions in state and provincial policies.

?Serving the public interest will require a careful balancing of the public benefits of these projects against the possible impact on aquatic habitat,? said Chris Shafer, a panel member and professor at Cooley Law School. ?We think it would be prudent for the states and Ontario to put siting criteria and policies in place before there is a rush of new offshore wind proposals.?

The report is based on a 14-month review by the panel, including a workshop the panel held in Ann Arbor, MI in September 2005 during which participants identified issues of concern and offered suggestions on proposed guidelines to protect aquatic habitat.

A legal review undertaken as part of the project found that the jurisdictions have most if not all of the legal authority they need to assure habitat protection and should exercise that authority by delineating policies that:

· Identify and map areas that should be protected from any significant lakebed alterations, due to the sensitivity of their biological, physical, archaeological, or other values, and designate them for legal protection;
· Promote the siting of alteration projects in areas that can tolerate such disturbances;
· Prevent, or, where necessary, minimize or mitigate degradation of aquatic habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms from proposed uses;
· Prevent or, where necessary, minimize or mitigate adverse impacts to water dependent birds, and other wildlife from proposed uses;
· Prohibit uses of the lakebed that are not water dependent;
· Require a demonstration of clear and substantial public benefit, including but not limited to environmental benefit, before authorizing such uses;
· Apply or enact mechanisms to collect fair market value for the use of bottomlands to assure the public is compensated for lakebed alterations, including lease costs;
· Require long-term ecological monitoring paid for by those who undertake projects that alter lakebed habitat, and provide for adjustment or disapproval of projects that impair the trust values of bottomlands.

Panel members include: Dave Dempsey, former member (1994-2001), Great Lakes Fishery Commission (U.S.), Saint Paul, Minnesota; Dr. John Gannon, Senior Scientist, International Joint Commission, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; Chris Shafer, Professor, Cooley Law School, Lansing, Michigan; Steven Ugoretz, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

A copy of the panel?s report is available on line at:


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