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Some Duluthians concerned over Great Lakes agreement

A group of Duluthians made it clear Tuesday night when a decision is made about Lake Superior water export, they will be heard. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held a meeting to get community feed-back concerning a draft agreement r...

A group of Duluthians made it clear Tuesday night when a decision is made about Lake Superior water export, they will be heard.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held a meeting to get community feed-back concerning a draft agreement released by the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

The agreement is aimed at regulating water withdrawals and diversions from the Great Lakes Basin. The draft is currently in the middle of a 90-day public comment period nearing its Oct. 18 expiration date.

"The draft agreement between the eight Great Lake states would put a standard on those new states who want to take water from the Great Lakes," said Julie O'Leary, from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. "This would effect water export from the Great Lakes. It would protect it. Although it doesn't seem like a threat now, this is an agreement that has been worked on by representatives from all states for four years."

This proposed agreement between the eight Great Lakes states is the first of its kind. The goals of the Council of Great Lakes Governors when designing the agreement was to ensure protection of the Great Lakes Basin, durability and simplicity of the contract, efficiency of the methods used and maintaining Great Lakes states authority over the Basin.

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Under the new contract, Great Lakes states would have a say in water leaving the Basin if it is more than 1 million gallons during a 120 day time span. Great Lakes states would also have a say in local water withdrawals that are above 5 million gallons a day. New restrictions would be imposed on those seeking water outside the area, putting particular emphasis on the idea of water conservation.

Technical analysis of the water withdrawal limitations have yet to be explored, which left some residents uncomfortable with accepting the contract as is.

Connie Minowa of the Environmental Association for Great Lakes Education said that it will be hard to understand what the impacts are going to be, but when we do see them, it may be too late to do anything about it.

Others at the meeting shared that perspective and urged the Council of Great Lakes Governors to conduct more research and provide more detail concerning the ramifications of the contract.

A representative from the Northeastern Minnesota Nature Conservancy said the contract needed to expand on the requirements of water conservation. It was also recommended the Council switch to a 30-day averaging period instead of a 120-averaging day period for water leaving the Basin to maintain the quality of the ecosystem.

Others were concerned about the 90-day public comment period, arguing that people are too wrapped up in the presidential elections and haven't had time to give the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact enough thought. It was suggested the Council extend the 90-day public comment period to give everyone the chance to explore it.

If the public comment period is not extended, it is still uncertain when a final decision will be made.

The draft agreement is available at www.cglg.org .

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