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Great Lakes Reps Put Off Opinion on Waukesha Application

Susan Bence
Staffers setting up April meeting of Regional Body in Chicago. This week delegates asked for more time.

Waukesha will have to wait at least another week to learn whether its request for Lake Michigan water may move forward. Great Lakes delegates met Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago. They were supposed to decide whether to recommend approval of Waukesha’s request; instead the group moved to delay.

Waukesha’s application to draw from the Basin is the first since the Great Lakes Compact came to life in 2008.

Waukesha falls under a special category. Although the City does not sit in the Great Lakes Basin, Waukesha County straddles the basin, therefore the City may apply for water.

Waukesha needs a clean source because of the presence of cancer-causing radium in its deep well system.

Waukesha’s application has been years in the making. This week, we anticipated the second to last step. A recommendation by the Regional Body, which consists of representatives from all the states and Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes.

The Regional Body met  a few weeks ago. At that time, a number of delegates said that the area Waukesha wants to service with Lake Michigan water was too expansive.

This week, several delegates pushed Waukesha to whittle down its proposed service area even further.

The change would mean cutting out all neighboring communities that are not part of Waukesha’s current distribution area. The only exception would be small bits of the Town of Waukesha.

Observers then expected a relatively short session Wednesday, after delegates had a chance to check with colleagues back home. However, several delegates said they need more time.

One of them is Minnesota’s representative Julie Ekmann. When the Regional Body convened in April, Ekmann said she was concerned about Waukesha’s proposed return route of water to Lake Michigan via the Root River.

“It was one of them, the service area of course was another and issues around the alternatives analysis, but I feel comfortable that we addressed those issues in the last couple of days and now I think the findings are reflecting back something we can chew on a little bit and think about and does this address our concerns," she said.

On Wednesday, the Regional Body agreed to meet by webinar on May 18.

The final decision falls on the shoulders of the eight Great Lakes governors, or their designated representatives. All must approve of Waukesha’s application in order for a diversion to take place.

That final vote was slated for June 13, but will be delayed because of the Regional Body’s request for more time.

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.