- Ideas to tap the Great Lakes water were essentially stopped in 2008, when the Great Lakes Compact was made law
- Instead of cities and states around the lakes worrying about keeping enough water along their lakefronts to float boats, they are now concerned about lakeside parking lots becoming marinas.
- Who is going to crack first?
By Mike Schoonveld
The water levels in the Great Lakes have cycled from high to low to high and back, countless times in the 10,000 years since the glaciers gouged the land, then filled the trenches back up with their melt water. High and low water periods are still happening in response to the amount of precipitation in the Great Lakes watershed and the gallons of water that ultimately flows down the St. Lawrence River (minus evaporation).
Containing twenty percent of the unfrozen freshwater in the world, the remaining 80 percent of the world would like to have some of the water – whether the lakes are low or high. Over time, some innovative schemes have been devised to get it.
One company was going to fill ocean-going tanker ships with Great Lakes water and haul it all the way to Australia. The multi-national company, Nestle, made plans to haul Great Lakes water away, one plastic bottle full at a time.
These and other ideas to tap the Great Lakes water were essentially stopped in 2008 when the Great Lakes Compact was made law. By unanimous consent of all the states and provinces bordering the lakes, the compact essentially disallowed commercial use of Great Lakes water if that use would remove the water outside of the Great Lakes watershed.
It was an easy regulation to pass back in 2008 when the water levels in the Great Lakes were approaching near record low levels. “Experts” were pinning the low levels on climate change and predicted no end to the ever dropping lake levels. The “Compact,” they said, was just one of many regulations governments would need to take to save the lakes, human civilization and most other life on earth.
Except now, the Great Lakes are brim full and each additional centimeter added to the Great Lakes water level sets new records. The same experts espousing theories of ever-dwindling Great Lakes water levels in 2008 are now claiming high water levels are the result of climate change and predicting no end to lakeshore flooding.
Now, instead of cities and states around the lakes worrying about keeping enough water along their lakefronts to float boats, they are worrying about lakeside parking lots becoming marinas. Something has to be done to get rid of the water before the Great Lakes become 25 percent of the world’s freshwater.
How soon is one of the states (or provinces) going to break the compact? There are none of the states or provinces bordering the lakes which don’t have their own version of money problems. Each one of those governments have budget struggles every fiscal year and each one fights for every nickel they can scrape up to squander.
All of these states are spending money right now, hiring climate change experts, planners, engineering firms and forming commissions to figure out how to cope with high waters along their lakeshores. How soon will one of the governments realize they can sell it?
Former ploys and ideas to tap into the Great Lakes were devised with the idea the water was free. The tanker ship hauling the water to a far away continent was expensive, but the cargo was free. What if it wasn’t?
Do you think Illinois, which is hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, would balk at selling a trillion gallons of Lake Michigan for a penny per gallon? Do you think drought-plagued Texas wouldn’t pay that amount, or the Nestle Corporation?
What about Michigan? A trillion gallons of Great Lakes water at a penny per gallon would put 10 billion bucks in Michigan’s treasury.
Would the other signatories to the Great Lakes Compact object? In the past they’ve certainly objected to water withdrawal proposals brought up through out the region. Would they object again, or would the legislators and administrators think, “Great idea! Pump away the problem. It’s like selling air. It’s free money!” Soon pump stations would be going up in every state.
If even one state broke away and the others objected, what could they do? Michigan isn’t going to invade Wisconsin – other than with lawyers. The federal government is unlikely to step into the fray. The states are now begging the feds for financial assistance to fight the high water, just as they did when they hit up the feds for dollars to dredge channels and harbors when the water was low. From the point of view of the feds, the problem is a solution.
Is the current high water levels something which will reverse itself or will water levels continue to rise? I don’t know. Ask an expert. I do know, once the pumps are installed, the water starts flowing out and the money starts flowing in, it will take more than a compact between the states to stop the flow.