Great Lakes Compact awaiting Presidential signature

After approval by the region’s 8 governors, the premiers of Quebec and Ontario, the US Senate and the US House of Representatives of the Great Lakes Basin Compact, all that remains is the signature of President Bush to make it law. It’s being touted as permanent protection for the Great Lakes. However, as the Detroit Free Press reports, not everyone is cheering this:

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, wrote a letter to the House on Monday asking members to turn the compact down because he said it has loopholes that could allow limitless amounts of bottled water to be exported beyond the Great Lakes basin. The compact exempts water in containers smaller than 5.7 gallons from the prohibitions on diversion.

Stupak said he also was concerned that compact language makes water a product under trade laws, which prevent restrictions on trade. “This compact … falls short of its intended goal,” he said in a statement.

Legal experts said those fears are unfounded and that there are ways each state can regulate water bottling, as Michigan does. For any new withdrawal of water for bottling, Michigan requires the bottler to get a permit if it plans to take more than 200,000 gallons per day. Whether a bottler gets a permit depends on the effect of the withdrawal on nearby streams and fish.

In his reaction, Great Lakes expert Dave Dempsey says that while the law represents years of hard work, it may make the Lakes more vulnerable rather than less as it legally defines water in bottles as a commodity under US law.

Photo credit: Empire Bluff view #2 by trekguy (part of his Crystal Lake Vacation set and taken on the day “The Tree” fell).