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Water Policy Expert Anticipates Canada Will Block Waukesha’s Great Lakes Application

S Bence
Debate continues - is Lake Michigan Waukesha's only sustainable water source.

The director of the Center for Water Policy at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, Jenny Kehl, says the pending decision on Waukesha's request to divert Great Lakes water will have national significance.

“River systems in this country have great water-sharing policies, large aquifers have good water-sharing policies. But there’s nothing quite as foundational as the Great Lakes Compact. So that’s why this precedent is so important,” she says.

Kehl's expertise includes conflicts across borders, and cooperation related to river and lake systems.

Under the Great Lakes Compact, in order for Waukesha's application to be approved, all eight of the neighboring Great Lakes states must unanimously agree. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec will weigh in, but don’t have a vote.

However, Kehl says Canada has another “vote” mechanism. “Canada will refer back to an ….older treaty from the 1920s about jointly managing the Great Lakes. [It requires] if significant decisions are made about the stewardship of the Great Lakes, both countries would have to agree,” she says.

Kehl believes if the Great Lakes states approve the diversion, Canada will use the treaty. “They will veto at that point, using that mechanism,” she says.

The public comment period on Waukesha’s Great Lakes water diversion application ends a week from today – Monday, March 14th.

A decision could be announced by the end of next month.

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.