December 4, 2013
The City of Waukesha’s revised plan to divert an average of 10.1 million gallons of water daily from Lake Michigan falls short of the protective standards set by the Great Lakes Compact. A coalition of Wisconsin conservation and environmental groups concerned with effective implementation of the law has formally asked the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to deny the application as written.
“Especially with this being the first application of its kind, we have to be very careful to set a sensible path forward,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin, Midwest Environmental Advocates. “A bad precedent here could haunt our treasured Great Lakes for generations.”
Midwest Environmental Advocates, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Waukesha County Environmental Action League, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, and Clean Wisconsin outlined the problems with Waukesha’s application in a formal response filed Monday with the Wisconsin DNR. The coalition is asking for the Wisconsin DNR to give careful consideration of these deficiencies to ensure Waukesha’s application can be resolved in compliance with the Great Lakes Compact. If these issues cannot be resolved, the coalition asks for the application to be rejected.
There are several critical areas in which Waukesha’s application fails to meet the approval criteria, including failing to show that Waukesha has no reasonable local water supply alternative. The City also failed to show that it has minimized its need for Lake Michigan water by reducing its water use through strong conservation measures.
“Just five years ago, the Great Lakes Compact sent a strong message that this water is a treasure and not a commodity,” said Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper. “There are very high standards in place to protect Lake Michigan from plans just like the one we see in Waukesha, and we do not believe those standards have been met.”
The Great Lakes Compact was adopted by all eight U.S. Great Lakes states and was ratified by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2008. The Compact is a multi-state agreement, which requires the Great Lakes states to protect and manage this world-class resource in a unified manner, adopt and implement strong water conservation measures, and prohibit diversions from the Great Lakes. Exceptions to the water diversion prohibition are allowed only under very limited circumstances and only if a community meets rigorous requirements.