Bill Richardson took back his recent blunder suggesting the Great Lakes become a source of sprinkler water for the parched West, but not before illuminating the issue and drawing a visceral response from the Midwest.
The brouhaha began when New Mexico Governor and presidential hopeful Richardson seemed to suggest that states such as Wisconsin, which he said is “awash in water,” provide the precious fresh water to the West.
Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) sent a letter to the New Mexico Governor and presidential hopeful asking for clarification. “I hope Governor Richardson did not mean to suggest he supports diverting water from the Great Lakes basin, so I wrote him to ask for clarification,” Stupak said in an October 18 press release.
Richardson “clarified” by retracting the statement all together. His press secretary Tom Reynolds scrambled to say that Richardson wasn’t proposing the transfer of water from one region to another and added in a statement: “Richardson believes firmly in keeping water in its basin of origin and of the rights of states to oversee water distribution.”
That’s a good thing, since as Stupak points out record low water levels would make diverting the water a very bad idea.
Still, Richardson’s gaff stirred the pot of hot political issues and helped elevate the Great Lakes. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appreciated his retraction and told the Free Press that Richardson’s original statement “underscores why we are pushing for the Great Lakes Water (Resources) Compact” – multi-state legislation that would prevent such diversions.