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The only water bill to make any headway in the legislative session thus far does not prohibit exporting Louisiana water out of state, according to Sen. David Cain, D-Dry Creek, reported an article in the Daily Star.
Cain, who made headlines by raising a red flag about ground water supplies in several public hearings around the state last year, said his own bill, SB1, has been "hijacked" by Gov. Mike Foster and business interests.
Instead, the Hoyt-Daniel bill which proposes studying a state water policy for two years, is winning approval and support from Foster.
"This is a whitewash bill; a deal to pacify people and make them think they are doing something," Cain said. "It's a do-nothing bill. I voted for it because it's better than doing absolutely nothing."
Hoyt-Daniel stops short of preventing out-of-state water exports or the proliferation of water-hungry merchant power plants while a state water policy is being formed.
The bill gives the study committee of state department heads temporary authority to ration water supplies in stressed areas or halt new wells that the committee determines would harm ground water supplies. The bill is proposed by Sen. Fred Hoyt, D-Abbeville, and Rep. William Daniel, D-Baton Rouge. It has already won approval by House and Senate committees.
It sets up a Groundwater Management Commission to develop a statewide aquifer policy recommendation in time for the 2003 legislative session. The commission would then disperse, and legislators would decide how to regulate water resources.
Sen John Hainkel said he is supporting Hoyt-Daniel.
"I don't think it goes far enough yet, but perhaps I'm too impatient," Hainkel said. "I'd like to step up the timetable. At least this bill reflects the fact that there's public concern and gives us some structure."
Hainkel also said he wishes Hoyt-Daniels included language to prohibit exporting water out of state. He is not supporting proposals for regional or parish-by-parish regulation, but he does support parish governments' input into water regulation plans.
"You can't fragment it. It's impossible to do so," Hainkel said. "You can't have each parish trying to put together an individual plan. It's even hard for each state to do it because they share aquifers."
Cain proposed an amendment to include geologists, scientists, farmers, engineers and professors on the commission. The professors were stripped from the amendment by a House committee on Tuesday.
The Sparta aquifer in northern Louisiana is already in serious trouble, and even the Florida Parishes aquifer system is showing signs of stress.
Louisiana is "late coming to the table" on water regulation, Hainkel said, because, "It's going to be a very dear asset in the future."