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LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today said the introduction of legislation to better regulate and protect Michigan’s water is the first step toward comprehensive laws that will better manage the state’s most vital resource.

“The Great Lakes are being eyed by other states as a potential source of free, fresh water,” Granholm said. “Unless the state takes steps to better protect and manage our water resources, we will see withdrawals and diversions of water that threaten ecosystems, our way of life, and most importantly, our economy.”

State Senator Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) and State Representative Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) announced, along with the Governor, the introduction of legislation this month that will be the cornerstone of the Water Legacy Act. The Governor called for the introduction of such legislation in a special message to the Legislature in January.

Under the legislation, all new or increased withdrawals from surface water or groundwater greater than 2 million gallons per day or greater than 100 million gallons a year would be required to get a permit. The permit would be valid for a period of 20 years. On January 1, 2010, all water withdrawals greater than 100,000 gallons a day would be required to get a permit.

Also under the legislation, permits would take no longer than six months to issue, unless both the state and the permit applicant agree to an extension. The permit would be transferable to a new owner/operator of the water withdrawal. After January 1, 2009, all owners/operators not subject to permitting will be required to submit a five-year water management and conservation plan.

“This legislation gets to the heart of the problem that Michigan has long faced – the fact that our state lacks a comprehensive water use and protection statute,” Granholm said. “The Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply. We can ill afford to have a laissez faire policy regarding our water.”

“I’m proud to be part of this important partnership to protect Great Lakes waters. Michigan is a major custodian of four of the five Great Lakes, and we must guard this fresh water resource for future generations,” Brater said. “Subjecting significant water withdrawals to review will go a long way to achieving this goal.”

“Michigan's families, businesses, and economy depend on the health and viability of our Great Lakes,” Kolb said. “And we must secure their health and vitality through a sound and prudent water use strategy.”

Granholm said the continued lack of protection and management of the Great Lakes leaves them vulnerable to increased regulation by the federal government.

“If Washington is regulating our water, political games will be played and diversion to other regions of the country will be inevitable,” Granholm said. “Lack of direction and management where the Great Lakes are concerned will carry serious consequences for our state’s economy.”

The provisions of the legislation represent the spirit of the Great Lakes Charter, an agreement Michigan signed in 1985 designed to regulate water withdrawals from the Great Lakes. However, laws to protect and manage the Great Lakes from large scale water withdrawals have never been addressed or enacted.

“Better regulation and protection of the Great Lakes ensure their viability for generations to come,” Granholm said. “It is imperative that the Legislature act on these bills sooner, rather than later. If not, we run the risk of politicians far removed from our state and region making decisions about our water.”
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