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Waukesha Water Application Moves on for Final Vote

Wisconsin DNR
Final map included in Regional Body's recommendation to advance Waukesha application with conditions.

Wednesday, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body completed the last step necessary to push the City of Waukesha’s request to draw Lake Michigan water for a final vote.

Waukesha maintains the Great Lakes provide the only sustainable solution to its radium-tainted well water.

The group’s job was to review the application, judge if it adheres to the tenets of the Great Lakes Compact and pass recommendations to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council, or Compact Council.

The Regional Body is recommending a substantial scaling back of the area Waukesha could service with Lake Michigan water and the amount of water it would divert – a daily average of 8.2 million gallons. Waukesha proposed using 10.1 million gallons a day.

The Regional Body also recommends Waukesha would also have to monitor the quality and quantity of the water it returns to the lake through the Root River for at least 10 years.

Nine of 10 delegates, who represent the states and Canadian provinces bordering the great Lakes, voted yes to the recommend Waukesha’s application to divert water from Lake Michigan and the conditions the Regional Body drafted.

Only one state held back.

Minnesota’s delegate Julie Ekman announced she wasn’t prepared to vote on the Regional Body’s findings.

“The governor and Minnesota DNR commissioner are still consulting with stakeholders on the changes made to the findings. While we very much appreciate your deference, Minnesota must abstain from a recommendation at this point,” Ekman says.

Observers might have expected the Province of Ontario to follow Minnesota’s lead, when delegate Jason Travers requested a ten minute recess.

Ten minutes later, Travers announced, “Ontario votes yes.”

Michigan delegate Grant Trigger also voted yes, but added that his vote does not assure that his state will finally endorse Waukesha’s application when the Great Lakes governors make the final decision late in June.

Trigger says many Michigan residents have concerns about Waukesha’s request. “Most of the comments that had been received during the public review period were against the proposed diversion,” he said.

The Compact requires members to consider public input as an ingredient to a final decision, along with an applicant’s need for Great Lakes water and the likely environmental impacts.

Wisconsin delegate Eric Ebersberger says the state DNR stands behind Waukesha’s original application. “Wisconsin agreed to the conditions in the interest of collaboration and respect for the other jurisdictions and an attempt to reach consensus,” he said.

City of Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly appears satisfied Wednesday’s outcome.

Conservation groups maintain the City’s application does not measure up to Great Lakes Compact requirements.

Later in June, the Compact Council will convene in Chicago for a final vote.

In the meantime, Wisconsin’s Eric Ebersberger hopes to work with Minnesota to bring the state on board.

A unanimous decision is needed in order for the City of Waukesha to divert its water.

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