Will Ohio Join Great Lakes’ Water Supply Compact? Can Sunshine Be Shipped?
ONB COLUMBUS: News report Friday suggest that Indiana is ready to join a regional, eight-state compact designed to prevent water-challenged states like Georgia or Alabama or others from siphoning off fresh water from the Great Lakes, which waterphiles say hold about 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water.
If Indiana’s legislature does approve the compact, The Hoosier state will become the third state behind Minnesota and Illinois, who have already ratified the measure.
Ohio, along with Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, has yet to send legislation to Gov. Strickland, who supports the proposal. But Strickland and other supporters will need the help of the Ohio Legislature, which is still led by Republicans, who just might take their cue from one of their own, State Sen. Tim Grendell of Chesterfield, east of Cleveland, who argues the regional compact could “intrude upon private property rights.”
Grendell, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary of 2006 for Attorney General, told the Toledo Blade that his opposition at the time centered on a provision of the compact that calls for water in the Great Lakes basin to be held in public trust. He also noted that a 2006 Ohio Supreme Court ruling affirmed that private property owners own groundwater beneath their land. Furthermore, he also questioned whether Ohio would give up its sovereign right to Lake Erie’s state-owned water by agreeing to be part of a regional water board of eight states?
Of course, compact supporters say Grendell’s arguments are all wet.
The Ohio House voted 82-5 to ratifying the proposed compact on Dec. 13th 2006, but that vote was for naught because the Senate failed to act before the 2007-08 General Assembly was sworn in.
With more than four years of research, comments, and revisions having been invested in the framework of an agreement that would forbid large diversions or transfers of Great Lakes water without consent from a regional water body that was agreed upon in principle by Great Lakes governors in December, 2005, it appears Ohio may be procrastinating itself into the last innings of the decision making.
And should all eight states come to agreement on the plan and become members of it, the US Congress would still need to approve it.
IF WATER CAN BE DIVERTED, CAN SUNSHINE BE SHIPPED?
With drought weary states like Georgia, Alabama and Florida fighting amongst each other over water rights, and desert states like Arizona fighting with California who whose entitled to more of the Colorado River waters than the other, it seemed only a matter of time until some special interest started coveting the vast reserves of fresh water that are the Great Lakes.
And so it came to pass. In 1998, a Canadian company called the Nova Group started shipping water from Lake Superior water to Asia. The siphoning off of precious fresh water to Asia, as if it were the equivalent of oil that now goes to power the voracious, growing economies of the Orient, was a wake up call for Great Lakes governors to make changes in international law, which had not been done since a nonbinding charter among the states was signed in 1985.
So if Ohio does not join, and the compact is not ratified and approved by Congress, and thirsty states or continents can gulp down fresh water that still falls from our skies and runs into our Great Lakes, can Midwestern states whose skies are often cloudy bottle and ship sunshine from states like Colorado and New Mexico?
Thirsty, parched minds want to know.
John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.
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