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Controversy over Great Lakes water pact

Oct. 3, 2011 at 2:44 PM

MILWAUKEE, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Conservation groups say they are being kept in the dark as U.S. and Canadian negotiators hammer out a bi-national Great Lakes water quality agreement.

A coalition of 41 environmental groups says the public has not been allowed to see details of the draft plan, while government negotiators respond it has to be that way, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday.

"While the constraints of international negotiations prevent us from sharing a draft of the agreement for public comment, we will be providing descriptive written materials to be shared ahead of the public forums," U.S. state department officials wrote to the conservation group Great Lakes United.

Public forums were held in September in Chicago and Toronto to gather further input, but conservation groups complained they still could not adequately comment on what they cannot see.

"We remain deeply concerned that the citizens of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem have very little information regarding the specific substance and language of the proposed agreement," the conservation groups wrote to the two governments.

Conservationists say that while the agreement reportedly will cover issues such as protecting watersheds, tributaries and groundwater systems, the mechanisms for accomplishing this remain "completely unclear."

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