Michigan may be in the doldrums right now, but more and more companies will likely belly up to the Great Lakes states when water gets scarce in the South and Southwest. Thats one reason why state lawmakers are moving now to protect the Great Lakes and rivers, but theres a lot of dissent on how to do that. A proposed Senate bill would allow groundwater withdrawals that would decrease river flows on some river stretches by up to 42%.
NATURE OR MANUFACTURING?
The proposed Senate Bill 860 reflects a computer models analysis that says reducing water flow would cause no adverse effect to rivers as long as it doesnt cause a fish loss of more than 20% of the fish in warm rivers, 5% of the fish in cold-water streams, and 10% of fish in rivers that are neither warm nor cold.
The model only looks at the effects on fish mortality with the reasoning that fish are at the top of the food chain, and their numbers reflect total damage to habitat. The assessment tool does not attempt to quantify damage to specific habitatsuch as bird nestingnor the effect on canoeists or riverside property owners.
The state House has come up with a different package of river protection bills, which is supported by environmentalists and would keep river flows level. Theres intense interest in this bill by manufacturers, water bottlers, farmers, fishermen, and conservationists.