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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Permitting Increased Water Diversion From Lake Michigan.

September 03, 1954

I HAVE WITHHELD my approval of H.R. 3300, "To authorize the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago, under the direction of the Secretary of the Army, to help control the lake level of Lake Michigan by diverting water from Lake Michigan into the Illinois waterway."

The bill would authorize the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago, under the supervision and direction of the Secretary of the Army, to withdraw from Lake Michigan, in addition to all domestic pumpage, a total annual average of 2,500 cubic feet of water per second into the Illinois waterway for a period of three years. This diversion would be 1,000 cubic feet per second more than is presently permitted under a decree of the Supreme Court of the United States dated April 21, 1930. The bill also would direct the Secretary of the Army to study the effect in the improvement in conditions in the Illinois waterway by reason of the increased diversion, and to report to the Congress as to the results of the study on or before January 31, 1957, with his recommendations as to continuance of the increased diversion authorized.

The bill specifies that the diversion would be authorized in order to regulate and promote commerce, to protect, improve, and promote navigation in the Illinois waterway and Mississippi Valley, to help control the lake level, to afford protection to property and shores along the Great Lakes, and to provide for a navigable Illinois waterway. No mention is made of possible improvement of sanitary conditions or increase in hydroelectric power generation on the waterway.

I am unable to approve the bill because (1) existing diversions are adequate for navigation on the Illinois waterway and Mississippi River, (2) all methods of control of Lake levels and protection of property on the Great Lakes should be considered before arbitrarily proceeding with the proposed increased diversion, (3) the diversions are authorized without reference to negotiations with Canada, and (4) the legitimate interests of other States affected by the diversion may be adversely affected. I wish to comment briefly on each of these points.

I understand that waterborne traffic on the Illinois waterway has grown in the last twenty years from 200,000 tons to 16,000,000 tons annually. The Corps of Engineers advises, however, that the existing diversions of water are adequate for navigation purposes in the Illinois waterway and the Mississippi River. Surveys are now under way by the International Joint Commission and the Corps of Engineers to determine the best methods of obtaining improved control of the levels of the Great Lakes and of preventing recurrence of damage along their shores. Reasonable opportunity to complete these surveys should be afforded before legislative action is undertaken.

The diversion of waters into and out of the Great Lakes has historically been the subject of negotiations with Canada. To proceed unilaterally in the manner proposed in H.R. 3300 is not wise policy. It would be the kind of action to which we would object if taken by one of our neighbors. The Canadian Government protested the proposed authorization when it was under consideration by the Congress, and has continued its objection to this bill in a Note to the Department of State dated August 24, 1954. It seems to me that the additional diversion is not of such national importance as to justify action without regard to the views of Canada.

Finally, as is clear from the report of the Senate Committee, a major purpose of the proposal to divert additional water from Lake Michigan into the Illinois waterway is to determine whether the increased flow will improve existing adverse sanitation conditions. The waters of Lake Michigan are interstate in character. It would seem to me that a diversion for the purposes of one State alone should be authorized only after general agreement has been reached among all the affected States. Officials of several States adjoining the Great Lakes, other than Illinois, have protested approval of the bill as being contrary to their interests and not in accord with the diversion authorized under the 1930 decree of the Supreme Court. Under all of these circumstances, I have felt that the bill should not be approved.


Note: This memorandum was released at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colo.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill Permitting Increased Water Diversion From Lake Michigan. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232583

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