Thursday, November 29, 2007

Defending the Great Lakes

U.S. environmentalists are calling for stronger laws to defend the Great Lakes against demands for fresh water from the drought-striken southern states. From the Buffalo News:

“The Great Lakes are facing the one-two punch of global warming and water diversion,” said Noah Hall, an environmental law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a co-author of the report. “We have known for many years that existing laws are inadequate to protect the Great Lakes from diversions and overuse. Now we know that climate change is certain to put additional stress and pressure on the Great Lakes.”

The National Wildlife Foundation published the report, with the backing of Environmental Advocates of New York and five other environmental groups from across the Great Lakes states.

In some ways, Lake Erie, because it’s a very shallow lake, is facing a bigger problem,” Hall said. “This could really change the surface area and the shoreline.”

More shoreline will be exposed, thereby making current lakefront properties less attractive, the report said. In addition, docks and marinas may have to be relocated, and ships may have to reduce the amount of cargo they carry to avoid scraping bottom.

And that would be just the beginning of the region’s problems. Noting that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate, recently suggested a national water policy — and said “Wisconsin is awash in water” — environmentalists fear that the parched Southwest and South could try to divert water from the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes states have a chance to prevent that by ratifying — and getting Congress to ratify — the Great Lakes Compact as soon as possible, environmentalists said.

The proposed compact is an eight-state agreement that would call for joint management of the Great Lakes. The deal also would ban new or increased water diversions either within the Great Lakes basin or to other parts of the country.

If you think this problem is overblown, take some time to look through southern papers such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Then head west and check out some papers from Nevada and Arizona. There's a very serious drought going on down there and that's coupled with enormous population growth over the past two decades. Something has to give.

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