Minnesota Ratification of Great Lakes Compact
Written by FLATRATE   
Monday, 19 February 2007 11:05

Final action taken today by the Minnesota Legislature makes that state the first to ratify the new Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and lays down the gauntlet for Governor Granholm and the Michigan Legislature, environmental groups said.

Michigan must reclaim its leadership on Great Lakes water protection not only by ratifying the Compact, but also by rivaling Minnesota's successful water withdrawal law and addressing grave concerns about commercialization of Great Lakes water, they said. 

Minnesota's ratification of the Compact, which will become official when Gov. Tim Pawlenty signs the legislation, comes 14 months after the eight Great Lake state governors agreed to the Compact in December 2005.  Environmental advocates and political observers in Minnesota say that ratification there – coming less than 60 days into the new legislative session – is based in large measure on Minnesota's long-standing, successful compliance with the requirements of the agreement.
Minnesota has had a water withdrawal law on the books since 1937 and upgraded it in 1990 to address concerns about the environmental impacts of withdrawals. The Minnesota law requires a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources for all withdrawals of groundwater or surface water 10,000 gallons or more per day or 1 million or more per year.  Current Michigan law, just passed in February 2006, only requires permits for withdrawals of 2 million gallons or more per day from an inland surface or groundwater source, or 5 million gallons or more per day from a Great Lake or connecting waters.   Some 7,000 permittees in Minnesota pay over $3 million in fees annually for water use. Minnesota's law permits to limit or suspend surface water use during low water periods.

"Minnesota's business community is living with the water withdrawal law – which applies statewide, not just in the Lake Superior Basin – and Michigan's can do the same with equally protective conservation requirements," said Grenetta Thomassey, Policy Director at Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.  "In fact, the future of Michigan's economy depends on having that kind of water conservation."

Advocates noted that Minnesota has not yet addressed a major concern related to the Compact – reaffirmation of public ownership of all waters of the state.  Existing and proposed major water mining and commercial sale operations, such as those undertaken by Nestle Waters North America in Michigan, will require all the states to enact such laws or risk losing control of the Great Lakes, they said.  Under the Compact, management of water exports in containers under 5.7 gallons in size is left up to each state, creating an opportunity to protect Great Lakes water that is otherwise vulnerable to large scale water exports in such containers.

"Michigan needs to be the first state to close this loophole in the Compact through separate state legislation," said David Holtz, Michigan Director of Clean Water Action. "It's an important message to send to the other Great Lakes states, especially since water mining is rapidly growing in the Great Lakes state."

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