Two Great Lakes states, Ohio and Minnesota, have state Constitutional amendments on the ballot important to water rights and water protection. In Ohio, ballot issue #3 would amend the state Constitution to protect private groundwater rights while still allowing state regulation of groundwater use. The proposed amendment was pushed by State Senator Tim Grendell as part of the deal to approve the Great Lakes compact over the summer. I covered the proposed amendment in a previous post and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center provided the Ohio legislature with a detailed legal memorandum. The proposed Constitutional amendment doesn’t change the current law of water rights in Ohio, but it does prevent courts from making future changes in response to new science or water protection priorities.
In Minnesota, the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment would provide dedicated funding for water protection, as well as fish and wildlife habitat, parks and trails, and the arts. The following language will be on the ballot:
Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage, and Natural Areas
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, steams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?
The effort to pass the proposed amendment is being led by Vote Yes Minnesota, a broad coalition of environmental, conservation, outdoors, and arts organizations. Supporting the amendment itself is a no-brainer – it will provide desperately needed funds (about $300 million per year) to protect and restore Minnesota’s rivers, lakes, parks, and cultural heritage. What’s more interesting and impressive is the potential model this provides to other Great Lakes states to take environmental protection and conservation funding decisions directly to the voters, who overwhelming support these priorities. If the proposed amendment passes in Minnesota, I expect similar efforts in Michigan and elsewhere as early as 2010.