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Journalist Highlights Pressing Issues Facing The Great Lakes

Courtesy of Kari Lydersen
Journalist Kari Lydersen aboard the School of Freshwater Sciences research vessel, the Neeskay.

As Milwaukee writer Dan Egan’s recent book made clear, the past and future of the Great Lakes are a complicated equation. Humans have had a significant impact on the watershed and the ecosystem in both negative and positive ways.

In the November issue of Milwaukee Magazine, Chicago-based writer Kari Lydersen went in search of the most-pressing issues that the Great Lakes face today — and the people who are confronting those issues head on. She explains that her task was to explore the state of the Great Lakes from various angles.

“One of the things that's actually great from an ecological and a resident standpoint but a little bit tricky as a journalist trying to do a story about the Great Lakes right now, is that a lot of things are actually going well in terms of the progress with the compact and the restoration and the different improvements that have been made since the millennium,” she explains.

The Great Lakes Compact — a historic agreement between the U.S. and Canada that puts restrictions on large-scale diversions of water in the Great Lakes — is 10 years old. In that time, some communities and corporations have made bids for exceptions to the contract, including Foxconn. 

But Lydersen says the Foxconn request is different because the water would just serve the company.

“Even if it was the most well-loved company in the world, it’s the idea that the water isn’t needed at this point to serve regular citizens. It would be for Foxconn,” she says. “And people are worried that with that kind of precedent … other industry … could try for a similar concession.”

Another important side note, Lydersen says, is that Foxconn’s site in Racine County is partially in the basin. So, she wonders “why Foxconn didn’t just locate the part of its operations that need the water in the basin because they actually do have land in the basin as part of their site. And It’s not clear why they wouldn’t just move the water-intensive operations a third of a mile away.”

Lydersen spoke with Lake Effect’s Susan Bence about additional issues facing the Great Lakes: 

Have an environmental question you'd like WUWM's Susan Bence to investigate? Submit it below.


Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.