Canadian Consulting Engineer

U.S.-Canada Great Lakes tensions continue to boil

While Manitobans are concerned about water being diverted from the U.S. into Canada, the Council of Canadians is co...

September 1, 2005   Canadian Consulting Engineer

While Manitobans are concerned about water being diverted from the U.S. into Canada, the Council of Canadians is concerned about too much water being diverted the other way — out of the Great Lakes system into the United States.
The Council has issued a call to arms over the second draft of the Great Lakes Annex Implementing Agreement, which it says has serious holes that weaken Canadians’ sovereignty over the shared waters.
Edouardo Sousa of the Council says that despite the claim that the agreement allows for “no diversions,” it still allows for the largest withdrawal — the Chicago Diversion.
“The Chicago diversion is the elephant in the room here,” says Sousa. “These agreements make special allowances for the biggest diversion to go on completely unchecked. If we’re going to protect the Great Lakes, this
diversion must be included in the overall management plan and be subject to
restrictions under the Annex.”
The council also points out that exclusion clauses allow diversions to
“straddling communities,” or counties that have a portion of their territory
within the Great Lakes basin. They are worried that under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, companies would be able to argue that they have the right to access to the waters otherwise they are being discriminated against:
“Communities or counties that ‘straddle’ the Great Lakes basin are
allowed the same legal right to Great Lakes waters as those within it,” says lawyer Steven Shrybman, speaking for the Council. “Moreover, under NAFTA, discriminating between one investor and another because of the jurisdiction in which it resides is simply not permitted. For this reason, a NAFTA tribunal may see little difference between straddling communities, straddling states, or straddling countries, and find that companies located elsewhere in the U.S. are unfairly discriminated against.”
Shrybman says: “Neither Canada nor the provinces would be able to veto diversions, regardless of their duration, scale, or impact on the waters of this shared ecosystem. … As we’ve seen with Devils Lake and now with the Great Lakes, the federal government is totally losing control over its shared waters with the United
States.”
Public consultations on the agreement began June 30 and are being held in cities over a 60-day period. The Council is urging Canadians to contact the Council of Great Lakes Governors and their local Members of Parliament to express their concerns about the second draft agreements, or download a card from the Council’s website.


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