The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced plans to forward with a formal review of the City of Waukesha’s application to divert Lake Michigan water.
More than 3,000 Great Lakes citizens, more than 70 Great Lakes legislators, over a dozen environmental and social justice organizations and tribes from across the region have written the WDNR urging them to deny Waukesha’s application as it stands. Yet the increasingly politicized WDNR has decided the application is approvable.
But the approval process is far from over, as the Regional Body and Great Lakes Compact Council must first conduct a formal regional review process.
”The governor of Wisconsin and the WDNR have a right to submit an application for a diversion from the Great Lakes. But it will have to be demonstrably different than what the state put out a few months ago to meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact. This is the first major test of the compact, which is designed to protect the Great Lakes, and the seven Great Lakes governors and two Canadian premiers will have to decide whether each of them believes the application meets the condition of the Great Lakes Compact,” said Peter McAvoy, an attorney working with the Compact Implementation Coalition.
Once submitted, the application will be reviewed by the regional body, which consists of the eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian premiers. The Compact Council, which is made up of only the eight Great Lakes governors, will then either approve or deny the application, taking into account the regional body’s findings. The Regional Body and Compact Council review will include at least a 45-day public comment period and a public hearing in Wisconsin, where citizens across the Great Lakes region will again be able to voice their concerns-this time to a wider audience.
The City of Waukesha maintains its claim that it does not have a reasonable water supply alternative to Lake Michigan water, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. If the City of Waukesha implements minimum conservation measures in its own conservation plan, excludes portions of communities that do not need and have publicly stated they do not want Great Lakes water, and adds treatment technologies to three of seven deep groundwater wells, while continuing to use its shallow wells, it will have a reasonable water supply alternative. This alternative costs $150 million less than a diversion, secures water independence for Waukesha residents, protects public health, and minimizes adverse environmental impacts.
”Our main concern has always been that the process laid out in the cis followed and the provisions are honored. The City of Waukesha’s application does not meet the high bar the compact sets for Great Lakes diversions. For that reason, we continue to believe the City of Waukesha’s application is not in the best interest of the Great Lakes region and the protection of one of our most vital natural resources,” said Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper.
The WDNR is expected to submit the official application as approvable. There will be a public briefing on Jan. 7, during which citizens can call-in to listen. Shortly after, the public comment period will begin and a public hearing will be held in Wisconsin. The Compact Implementation Coalition encourages all Great Lakes citizens to submit comments and attend the public hearing and testify.