Western drought sparks another muse about pipelines of water headed westward. The time to quash this thinking is now.
If you're a long-time follower of the threat from arid western states to Great Lakes water, this scenario won't be news to you.
Prolonged drought like the one the west is currently experiencing hits and water managers start thinking about alternate sources. Hmmm, the Great Lakes region has water, way more than it needs. We build pipelines to transport other commodities, why not water? There's a flurry of discussion then said western state gets rain and the issue fades. Fades, being the key word, taking Great Lakes water doesn't go away, it's always in the background.
The latest Great Lakes water muse comes from Idaho as reported by Fox News Radio. The story hits the traditional talking points previously mentioned here -- surplus Great Lakes water shipped to Idaho by pipeline, problem solved. Simplistic thinking? Sure. But these are the times we're in.
But this time someone in Idaho has done their homework. The story never mentions the Great Lakes Compact, the eight state agreement that prevents water diversions, with a few exceptions, to areas outside the Great Lakes basin. The Compact is also codified in a federal law signed by former President George W. Bush in 2008, which takes precedent.
But the writer must be aware of the law because this is tucked into the end of the story.
"Millions of thirsty western voters will have a lot of pull on policy. As the region grows, so does its power in the United States House of Representatives. By its design, the Senate is already favorable to western concerns."
And they got it right. The Great Lakes states will lose five seats in the House as a result of the 2020 census. Toss in the fact that the federal government has been unstable for the past four years and Congress is still showing signs of instability and in a few years, or 10 years a perfect storm could descend. A serious legislative move to ditch the Great Lakes Compact could be a real threat.
When I mention the potential threat to the lakes from the west to people who pay attention to
policy issues, I usually get a polite scoff. Followed by "we've got the Compact." Or worse, "the Compact is ironclad."
That kind of thinking comes through a 2008 lens. What's needed is for the Great Lakes intelligentsia -- governors, mayors, policy advisers and water conservation advocates -- to view the threat of diversions through a 2028 lens.
And to start now on a move to quash the diversion threat from western states before it gains momentum in our rickety federal government.
Because like a bolder going down hill, once a movement gets momentum in Washington, it's hard to stop.
Chicago-based environmental journalist