Apr 22 2010
Michigan House Bill 5319 is short – just two pages – and its essence comes down to a sentence or so: “The waters of the state, including groundwater, are held in trust by the state. The state shall protect these waters and other natural resources that are subject to the public trust for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Short and simple it may be, but not uncontroversial. The measure, which has passed the House, has drawn concern that some existing water users may be impacted. The Oakland County committee on government has passed a measure declaring, “HB 5319 is attempting to quietly strip away these property rights without landowner compensation and poses a dangerous threat to the economic prosperity of the State of Michigan and Oakland County.”
Backers of the bill warn that while the new Great Lakes Compact does provide some restrictions on expert of water from the region, it allows for some export in bottles.
Russ Harding, senior environmental analyst and director of the Property Rights Network at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, said in an article for the Detroit Free Press, “Placing groundwater in government ownership is not needed to protect our natural resources. Worse, it is bad public policy. Michigan’s water is an economic asset and is the envy of most states. Wise use of water should be encouraged to serve as a catalyst for providing much-needed jobs in the state, rather than turning that asset into a liability by subjecting job providers to a new, costly and time-consuming permit process. Water rights are an important component of property rights. Michigan voters recognized the importance of protecting against physical taking of property by passing Proposition 4 in 2006, making it more difficult for government to take property by eminent domain. Protecting private water rights from regulatory taking is no less important.”