TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan — There’s a hole in our bucket, dear Congress, dear Congress. Or so concerned environmental groups in Michigan sing after the lauded passage of the Great Lakes Compact — legislation they believe needs a patch or two.
The Compact, passed this October, prevents private and public interests from diverting large quantities of water from the Great Lakes Basin. But it also permits export of the resource so long as it is packaged in containers no larger than 5.7 gallons. To many this constitutes a loophole that labels water as a product, a commodity up for sale.
Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives told the Associated Press that “anybody could run a semi truck through these loopholes.”
Along with Stupak, environmental attorney Jim Olson — whose organization, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, is heading the campaign to revisit the legislation — told Circle of Blue during an interview, “It’s not that there aren’t good things in the Compact like the diversion ban, it’s there. It’s that it could be whittled away.
“We’re talking about legal barriers that could be removed more easily because of the way the Compact is not written, which if they were removed would lead towards the larger, quantifiable problems,” he said. While Olson and Stupak, in cooperation with a plethora of worried residents and organizations begin campaigning for change, others believe the compact already sets out adequate preventative measures.
Marc Smith, state policy director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes arm told the Associated Press, “We think the compact provides ironclad protections and went as far as we could go without violating international trade agreements.” Executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors David Naftzger pointed out that most people believe the compact is enough. “Given the process we just went through, it’s very difficult to imagine an effort like that being successful,” he said.
Olson mentioned in a public meeting in Traverse City Sunday, November 16 that if roadblocks to revising the legislation itself remain insurmountable, then campaigners plan to push for more stringent laws at the state level.
Follow Circle of Blue’s coverage on the Great Lakes Compact here.