All About the Water


The governors of the Great Lakes states recently approved a request by a Wisconsin city to draw water from Lake Michigan after its existing water supply dried up. But because the city isn’t in the watershed of the Great Lakes, the two Canadian provinces that share Great Lakes water rights say the request should be denied.

Waukesha, Wisconsin will be allowed to tap Lake Michigan for up to 8.2 million gallons per day once it completes a $207 million pipeline project that would draw in lake water and return fully-treated wastewater.

Delegates for the governors of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York gave their unanimous consent to the first formal request to divert water outside the Great Lakes basin during a meeting of the compact council.

The 2008 compact prohibits water from being sent outside the basin watershed. Communities like Waukesha, located over the line but within a straddling county, can apply under a limited exception.

The eight governors approved the request over the objection of widespread opposition. Mayors, legislators, policy-makers and citizens around the Great Lakes have worried about the precedent Waukesha’s application represented.

Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to provide safe drinking water by mid-2018. The city draws most of its water from a deep aquifer that is contaminated with unsafe levels of radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen. The city has a population of about 70,000 people.

Kiplinger warns that more water conflicts will flare up, citing California, India, South Africa and the Middle East among the likely areas of dispute.

Chamber Releases New Study on Indiana Water Supply

A new study from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation warns that without planning and proper management, the state’s water supply – a longtime natural resource strength – could become a challenge for both businesses and citizens.

While Indiana is not facing the dramatic shortages of California or other states in the West and Southwest, its current economic advantage – plentiful water supplies – will dry up, according to Water and Economic Development in Indiana: Modernizing the State’s Approach to a Critical Resource.

“This is definitely a jobs and economic development issue,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Our state’s economy is growing more diverse, but we always will make things. And it often takes large, reliable supplies of water to do so.

“We experienced a seasonal drought just two years ago and at previous times in our state’s history. The goal is to ensure those droughts and more prolonged shortages do not negatively impact our state in the future,” he explains.

The importance of this issue is underscored in the Indiana Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan, which lists the development and implementation of a state water strategy as one of its 33 goals. What’s more, a recent report out of Michigan found that Indiana is the most water-dependent state in the entire country as it pertains to its impact on the economy.

The Indiana Chamber study was commissioned in late 2013 and conducted over the first half of this year. It was led by Bloomington-based Jack Wittman, Ph.D., principal geoscientist with INTERA Incorporated; Wittman has frequently consulted with water providers throughout the state. A water advisory council, comprised of key water users and producers, provided insight and guidance through a series of regular meetings.

Among the findings:

• In Southern Indiana, local water resources are not always able to meet anticipated future needs. For example, there are few aquifers or perennial streams immediately south of Bloomington – a prime area for business development with the expansion of Interstate 69 and the continued work at the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
• While water supplies in Central Indiana are diverse and utilities are making plans, continued population growth leads to projections of an additional 50 million gallons per day to meet the needs of the region by 2050.
• North of the Wabash River, water is relatively abundant. The area, however, is seeing significant increases in water usage for irrigation. These seasonal fluctuations require additional monitoring, in part to determine impact on other water users.

“Not only does water matter today,” according to Wittman, “but management of water will be even more essential in the future.”

Wittman says a separate study conducted earlier this year found that Indiana ranks first in the nation in the percentage of its economy that depends on water. He also notes various agencies (state, federal and local) and universities already do work in the areas of water management and analysis, but that one entity must be designated to lead the way. Among the specific recommendations:

• Creating widespread awareness about the need for water supply planning
• Coordinating current efforts, including the funding of additional water research
• More robust monitoring of water resources
• Standardized systems for data analysis and water resource management

“What this study does is set the stage for creation of a long-needed, long-range water plan for the state,” offers Vince Griffin, Indiana Chamber vice president of energy and environmental policy. “While a credible plan may take three to five years, legislators – from the Senate and House, as well as both parties – understand the importance of this issue and are prepared to lead on the next steps.”

Brinegar adds, “Additional financial investments will be needed to ensure a reliable water future. That’s why we commissioned this study now and why we encourage all involved to take these results and use them as a playbook for development of a long-range water plan.

“Indiana should be taking advantage of its current water supplies to help attract and retain businesses – and jobs. If we plan properly for the future, those resources will continue to be an economic advantage.”

Additional comments from four members of the water advisory council:

“The release of this study is a good first step in starting the important dialogue about water use in our state. Even though agriculture is a small user compared to other sectors, a stable and abundant water supply is crucial to growing the crops and livestock that feed Hoosier families. Indiana Farm Bureau looks forward to continuing our participation in this important project that will ensure an adequate water supply for all of Indiana.”
– Don Villwock, president of Indiana Farm Bureau

“This report, and the efforts of the (Indiana) Chamber’s Water Advisory Council, are a call to action for Indiana to prepare for meeting the broad range of water needs that form the foundation of the economic future and quality of life for all Hoosiers. By improving the understanding of our current water resources, we can be better prepared to assure their continued availability for the state’s businesses and residents.”
– Thomas M. Bruns, president, Aqua Indiana, Inc. and representing the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Water Companies

“Indiana corn and soybean growers realize that water is a critical resource needed to produce our crops and for our industry to flourish. This report gives us all a starting point to ensure that our state thrives while our farmers continue to provide food for their families, neighbors and the world.”
– Mike Dunn, director of production research, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council

“The Indiana Section of the American Water Works Association believes this study is an important step toward ensuring an uninterrupted supply of water for Indiana. The availability of water is vital to the continued growth of business and industry and to the quality of life for all Hoosiers. Congratulations to the Indiana Chamber Foundation on its foresight in taking a long-term approach to addressing the importance of water to Indiana’s future.”
– John A. Hardwick, chair, Water Utility Council, Indiana Section American Water Works Association

Shipping Wheat, Wind Turbines and More

When I say I’m going to provide you some St. Lawrence Seaway shipping statistics, the reason is more than the alluring alliteration. Our friends in Northwest Indiana are well aware of the Great Lakes shipping connections to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the tremendous economic impact of those important waterways.

Wheat and wind turbines are leading the way. Check out the news courtesy of Marine Delivers:

The latest statistics from the St. Lawrence Seaway show that grain shipments are up more than 20 percent as the marine highway benefits from international demand for American and Canadian wheat.
Year-to-date grain shipments from March 22 to June 30 totaled 2.6 million metric tons, compared to 2.1 million metric tons during the same period last year. While Canadian grain shipments were up three percent for the period to 1.9 million metric tons, the surge was predominantly fueled by a 127 percent increase in U.S. shipments of 400,000 metric tons heading through the Seaway to overseas markets.
Rebecca McGill, director of trade development for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, noted that the 2011 navigation season continues to reflect respectable gains in general cargo and agriculture products.

There is one market, however, that is booming – the transportation of wind turbine components. Year-to-date general cargo shipments, which includes wind turbines, has increased by 404 percent. McGill said: “Shippers carrying wind component cargoes continue to send vessels into Great Lakes ports. These oversized pieces move economically by water to ports where rail or, more commonly, trucks move them to site destinations."

Indiana House Votes to Protect Great Lakes

The Elkhart Truth reports on the latest bill to protect the Great Lakes system. Indiana and surrounding states — and even two Canadian provinces — have worked over the past few years, namely via the Great Lakes Compact, to protect the lakes and keep the resources primarily in the region.

Indiana’s House of Representatives voted 90-0 this week to support a bill authored by State Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, to better protect and improve the Great Lakes and its watershed.

Senate Bill 157 requires the Environmental Quality Service Council — a bipartisan legislative panel that studies state energy and environmental policies — with reviewing and discussing issues related to the supply and quality of water in the Great Lakes. The EQSC will also review what federal funds are available for water protection, infrastructure conditions and regulatory matters affecting shipping and other relevant matters.

Indiana has 45 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

The bill was supported by both the Northwest Indiana Forum, a regional organization that works to promote economic development, and the Great Lakes, an interstate compact agency that promotes the orderly, integrated and comprehensive development, use and conservation of the water and related natural resources of the Great Lakes basin and St. Lawrence River.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Indiana Wildlife Federation and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce backed Zakas’ proposal, he said.

In 2008, Zakas was successful in getting Indiana to join the Great Lakes Compact to help monitor, manage and protect water resources of the lakes. He said this new initiative could help state officials remain engaged and informed about Great Lakes issues.

S.B.157 will now move to the governor for his approval.

From Not So Good to Great?

Maybe, just maybe, that Rust Belt name will find its place in history. The Midwest has been stuck with that unflattering moniker for years. Deservedly so in many ways. But the Brookings Institution, no Johnny-come-lately to the think tank game, says in a recent report that the Great Lakes region could be the economic leader going forward.

The State Science & Technology Institute (based in Ohio, giving it extra incentive in this case) analyzed the report this way (with more than a few items and initiatives that are no strangers to Indiana):

The Next Economy: Economic Recovery and Transformation in the Great Lakes Region provides a roadmap for federal, state and local stakeholders to transition the Rust Belt into a forward thinking economy. It replaces the old economy, which was driven by highly-leveraged, domestic consumption, with an export-oriented Next Economy powered by a low-carbon energy strategy and driven by innovation that benefits all Americans.

The report outlines the many resources that can position the Great Lakes region as an economic leader. They include:

Global trade networks: Many of region’s cities rank among the top cities in terms of the share of their metro output that is exported;

Clean energy/low carbon capacity: Their blue-green potential due to the Great Lakes, waterways and abundant natural wind/solar resources position the region well in renewable energy generation; and

Innovation infrastructure: The region’s metros are home to 21 of the 32 major public and private research universities, which attract substantial federal research investment. Each year almost 36% of all U.S. science and engineering degrees come from schools in the region. The region also registers almost 33% of all U.S. patents.

To achieve this economic transformation, the region will have to address the deficient transportation infrastructure for trade, the concentration of energy-intensive industries, the lack of seed capital and the low educational attainment levels. To resolve these challenges, the report provides three key Next Economy drivers that will help federal, state and metropolitan leaders to maximize the region’s promise:

Invest in the assets that matter: innovation, human capital, and infrastructure: Even though budget cuts have become a regular occurrence, the researchers argue, long-range economic health is not just a matter of spending less, but spending and investing to spur growth. The region should concentrate its efforts on developing regional innovation clusters, instituting workforce development at community colleges and smart spending on infrastructure to facilitate trade.

Devise new public-private institutions that are market-oriented and performance-driven: Government leaders should be prepared to go to voters to support bond issues or dedicated tax sources for these institutions. They also can consider reorganizing money from programs and systems that are underperforming. These institutions include new infrastructure banks, advanced manufacturing labs, regional energy research and innovation centers and a venture capital fund of funds.

Reimagine metros’ form and governance structures to set the right conditions for economic growth: To achieve growth and innovation, cities and states must overhaul their physical redevelopment strategies and local governance structures in the Great Lakes region due to their significant population and economic declines. They must focus on right-sizing communities, green development and infrastructure and governance reform.

Choose the Proper Course on Carp

Asian carp are a serious threat to the waterways of the Great Lakes, but the solution to their potential invasion must not create additional economic harm. 

The carp, which can weigh up to 100 pounds, are predators. They would threaten numerous fish species native to the area, the broader environmental balance and even boaters and tourists striving to enjoy recreational opportunities. Once positive contributors to helping remove algae from Southern fish ponds, they are now regarded as among the most dangerous of invasive species. 

One misguided attempt to deal with the risk is to close the navigational locks in the Chicago area. This would disrupt hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of shipping and essentially sever Northwest Indiana’s crucial water-based commerce with the rest of the world. 

Federal investment, in the form of additional electric barriers, would prove more effective in keeping the carp out of the Great Lakes while still allowing Indiana and the other states in the region to maintain the shipping prowess that benefits so many companies and their employees.

Washington is paying attention – as it should. The barrier plan emerged from a White House-led summit. Indiana and its neighbors must now work together to support this prudent alternative. The threat is real; a radical closure of shipping lanes and economic opportunity, however, is not the answer.

A new organization called Unlock Our Jobs has formed to tackle this issue, offering alternative options while keeping our waterways open for business. Its web site can also help you quantify the economic impact of river traffic and lock closures on your state.

Big and Blue: Michigan’s Unemployment Rising, Tax Revenues Shrinking

Michigan is a beautiful state, but right now its economic situation isn’t. The Detroit News offered this article yesterday articulating just how true the phrase "no rest for the weary" is becoming for the Great Lakes State, noting a projected unemployment rate of 11% coupled with declining tax revenues:

Michigan’s jobless rate will top 11 percent in each of the next two years and state tax receipts this year will come in $870 million below estimates made in May due to the languishing economy, according to a revenue forecast released Wednesday.

The House Fiscal Agency report says unemployment in Michigan, which was 8.4 percent in 2008, will rise to 11.3 percent this year and 11.4 percent in 2010. The jobless mark will peak at 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010, the report predicts.

"Michigan’s economy and state revenue will be significantly affected by the national recession, the weakened level of motor vehicle sales, the tight credit conditions, and the financial condition of General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and their suppliers," the report says.

Energy/Environment Hot Topic of Friday Conference Call

In today’s First Friday Conference Call, Indiana Chamber VP of Energy & Environmental Affairs Vince Griffin chimed in via phone all the way from Ireland. Ok, it was Ireland, Indiana near Jasper, but it still sounded quite magical. (And we don’t have to claim Colin Farrell in the Hoosier version.)

At any rate, Vince offered some key tidbits on the state of energy in Indiana. Here are just a few of the items conveyed in the hour-long call:

  • By 2013, experts from Purdue University have forecasted that Indiana will need close to 5,000 additional megawatts of power; today we produce just over 20,000.
  • The Great Lakes contain 20% of the world’s fresh water.
  • Indiana has seen droughts in the 1940s, 1960s, 1988 and is due for another. Vince says these tend to follow periods of heavy rain and snow, which Indiana has seen the last couple of years.
  • Water is critical. No water = no electricity.
  • Indiana consumes over 60 million tons of coal per year, second only to Texas. Vince also expressed hope that President-elect Obama will back off his campaign rhetoric regarding the impending downfall of coal. "We’re hopeful that Obama understands how important coal is to the United States. It provides a large number of jobs and Indiana has 95% of its electricity come from coal."
  • Indiana uses a lot of power. One reason is that we are the nation’s top producer of steel, which is very energy-intensive.

The First Friday Conference Call is just one of many benefits Indiana Chamber members receive. The monthly calls feature a different topic each month, and are totally interactive with 30 minutes of the hour dedicated to answering questions of listeners. If your company is a member, anyone at your business can call in and take part. To inquire about Chamber membership, call the territory manager for your area.

Great Lakes Region Not Trending So Great for GOP Houses

The 10 states in the Midwest/Great Lakes region have undergone significant shifts in party control in their State Houses. Following the 2004 election, eight of these 10 states had a Republican Speaker of the House. Today, nine of the 10 states have a Democratic Speaker of the House. The Midwest has been seen as a battleground the last several years for party control and for the Presidential races, but it has also shown dramatic power shifts.

During these last three elections, the Democratic Party has gained seats in ALL 10 states in both the 2006 election and the 2008 election. This has resulted in a net gain of 101 seats for the Democratic Party in this 10-state region since 2004. The most dramatic shift has been in Minnesota where the Democratic Party has gained 20 seats in the last two elections. Illinois and Indiana have changed the least with a shift of four seats each.

This sets up the Democratic Party nicely for the next decade if they are able to maintain their majorities in these nine states and control the reapportionment process in 2011. Control of the legislative agenda for the next decade has already been sealed by the Democratic Party in many of these states before the 2010 election is even over.


Surf the Great Lakes (Caucus) on the Web

Are you interested in Great Lakes legislative issues? (It’s OK, don’t be shy, we all have our niches. I, for instance, am a sucker for "Dukes of Hazzard" paraphernalia.)

If so, you might note that the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus recently established an online presence. The caucus is a nonpartisan affair, including legislators from eight states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin) and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec).

According to the site, the caucus has three primary goals:

1. Facilitate the regional exchange of ideas and information on key Great Lakes issues 
2. Strengthen the role of state and provincial legislators in the policymaking process
3. Promote the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes

In this year’s state legislature, the passage of SB 45 made Indiana the first state to adopt the Great Lakes Compact and implemenation language. The Indiana Chamber has been a supporter of the Great Lakes Compact that will restrict the diversion of waters from the basin. Prior to the session, the Chamber, in cooperation with environmental interest groups, hosted the Indianapolis public meeting on the compact. In testimony, the Chamber noted that nearly 20% of the world’s fresh water is contained in the Great Lakes and that we must do what we can to preserve and protect this valuable resource that is critical to many Indiana businesses, industries and residents.

The other seven states and two Canadian provinces on the Great Lakes must adopt the compact before it goes to Congress for ratification.

Take a look at the Great Lakes Caucus news often for the latest developments. We know Wisconsin’s own Tom Wopat (aka Luke Duke) will be checking it out.