Great Lakes water resources agreement needs to be rejected, Sierra Club says

ONTARIO—A representative of the Sierra Club of Ontario (SCO) and Restore Our Water International (ROWI) pans a proposal currently on the environmental bill of rights (EBR) website that would support the implementation of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, as it would allow for more water to be diverted out of Lake Huron, which has already seen a decline in levels in recent years.

“In the EBR it explains the province is looking at redefining the hydrological water divide for the Great Lakes,” stated Mary Muter, chair of the Great Lakes Section of SCO. “By doing this it would mean they would be diverting water from Lake Huron to Lake Erie and they would be setting a precedent. The Americans who want to divert water would be able to take water, and we in Ontario would be sending directly from Lake Huron. This would open the door to further diversion from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario. It’s crazy.”

“Ontario has announced this new plan on its EBR,” said Ms. Muter. “We know there is a town in Wisconsin, Waukeshaw which is located just outside Milwaukee and it wants to take water out of Lake Michigan outside of the hydrological divide and divert it into another lake. If all of this is allowed there are 30 other neighbouring communities that will want to do the same.”

[pullquote]“Ontario has announced this new plan on its EBR,” said Ms. Muter. “We know there is a town in Wisconsin, Waukeshaw which is located just outside Milwaukee and it wants to take water out of Lake Michigan outside of the hydrological divide and divert it into another lake. If all of this is allowed there are 30 other neighbouring communities that will want to do the same.”[/pullquote]

“Ontario would be opening the door to increased new diversions from one Great Lake to another and would lose the moral authority to object from these other communities who want to do the same,” said Ms. Muter.

A letter to Ms. Muter from the Ministry of the Environment states, “we are writing to tell you that we have posted a proposal on the Environmental Registry that will fulfill Ontario’s commitments under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (Agreement) in Ontario. The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources have been working collaboratively to implement Ontario’s commitments. The proposal has also been shaped by the valuable input we have received from our many stakeholders.”

“This proposal has been posted for public review and comment. We invite your comments on this proposal. Please submit your comments through the Environmental Registry by June 9, 2014. The proposal can be accessed on the Environmental Registry’s website; at http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca (registry number 012-1607).”

“Ontario is proposing changes to Ontario Regulation 387/04 under the Ontario Water Resources Act and Ontario Regulation 681/94 under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 that will ensure that new or increased water taking and transfer of water between Great Lakes watersheds are regulated in Ontario according to the standards of the agreement,” the letter states.

“Studies show that water takings and transfers have a minimal impact on Great Lakes water levels. Overall, more water is diverted into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin than the total combined amount of water that is transferred out or withdrawn and not returned to the basin,” the letter reads.

“We are definitely not in support of these proposed changes,” said Ms. Muter. “If Ontario does not ban new interbasin projects and this is allowed to go through, then precedence will have been set. Ontario is the last signatory on this agreement and we must get the province to reject this proposed plan. We have to question this agreement. They would be taking water out of Lake Huron and discharging it at the south end of St. Claire river into the Detroit River and Lake Erie and would double what they withdraw from Lake Huron.”