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Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Lake Michigan Water Issues Remain...

Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

The Governor has negotiated a deal with the Republicans to get the Great Lakes compact passed so that he can sign it.  The Republicans shouldn't have rolled over on this issue.

Does this mean anything to us Germantown citizens?  Not directly since we are located in the Great Lakes Basin and can have access to the water in Lake Michigan should we ever need that.  If we were in Colgate, though, we wouldn't be permitted to access Lake Michigan water.  Why?  Because Germantown is on the eastern side of the subcontinental divide and Colgate is on the west.  Water from Germantown flows ultimately back to the Great Lakes Basin.  Water in Colgate flows eventually to the Mississippi River and down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Why do I feel as I do about this 'issue' then?  Because the new compact that is being ratified by Canada and the states that sit in the Great Lakes Basin can still be vetoed by any signatory to the agreement.  Will any state dare veto the demands of another state?  Wouldn't that subject that state to the possible recriminations when it needed something approved by the others?

One state is fully within the Great Lakes Basin, and therefore will most likely never need to ask the others for permission.  It will always be able to draw water from any of the Great Lakes that it touches without further permission.  This means that a sitting governor of Michigan need never have any fear of the recrimination of another signatory if he or she decides to veto a request for access.  The Republican hold-outs had wanted to change the compact language to require a majority of the eight rather than all.  This would've caused the compact to have to go back for revision and be voted on again at some time in the future.

Governor Doyle agreed to the addition of language that prescribes the process for application by a community that is outside the basin, but that does nothing to thwart the requirement that all signatories must approve such a request unanimously.  So...nothing changed.  The Governor got what he wanted and gave nothing of real substance in return.  Republicans, at best, got a place to hide in return for caving.

If you've followed this debate at all, you'll remember that New Berlin sits astride the subcontinental divide.  It has been negotiating with Milwaukee to gain access to the Lake Michigan water supply that Milwaukee uses for its water needs.  New Berlin has agreed that whatever water it would take from Lake Michigan would be replaced by diverting all treated wastewater back into Lake Michigan.  While that makes sense to us, it needs to pass the judgment of the other signatories to the compact...or it won't happen.

And then there is Waukesha which is under orders to cure its radium issues, but lacks the ability to get at water that would permit that resolution.  Forever is a very long time and this compact goes on indefinitely if it is approved by the proposed signatories.  It appears on track for that outcome given Wisconsin's revised position on the issue.

Illinois, by the way, is happy as a clam because it did a deal sometime ago that diverts tremendous amounts of Lake Michigan water daily in the Chicago land area.  That deal is not subject to anyone's approval since it is grandfathered into the new compact.

All this is in response to the fears, which are reasonably well-based, that powerful western states will band together to vote that they should be entitled to water from our Great Lakes.  Remember that population is shifting to those western states and it is only a matter of time before that combined group will possess the votes to effect such legislation at a federal level.  And, it could have had sufficient influence to make most courts sympathetic to its cause.  This is a real problem that needs resolution, but this resolution is, from my perspective, significantly flawed.

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