Racine diversion challenge advances, adds new petitioners
MADISON - This week, the legal challenge to the City of Racine’s plan to divert Great Lakes water to the Foxconn industrial complex advanced, with notice of a pre-hearing conference date and the addition of prominent petitioners.
In the Spring, Midwest Environmental Advocates, on behalf of four petitioners (League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and River Alliance of Wisconsin), filed a legal challenge with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The petitioners contend that DNR’s approval of Racine’s request for a Great Lakes water diversion for the Foxconn development violates the Great Lakes Compact, an interstate agreement enacted to protect this economic and cultural resource.
The Compact strictly requires diversions of Great Lakes water be limited to public, largely residential, uses. Racine’s attempt to divert 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water west of the Great Lakes Basin divide to serve the solely private industrial uses of Foxconn violates this rule.
At the heart of the legal challenge is a strong commitment to the protection of the world’s largest freshwater resource, the Great Lakes. The opportunity to stand in support of the Great Lakes Compact has attracted many powerful advocates including two nationally prominent organizations, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and League of Women Voters Lake Michigan Region.
“The Great Lakes face threats from all directions, but the Foxconn diversion threat is particularly dangerous. It opens the door to industrial polluters sucking the life from one of North America’s most important natural resources—one that millions of Americans and Canadians rely on for drinking water, economic vitality and quality of life. But worse, it undercuts the Great Lakes Compact, America’s most important protection for these essential waters. We are standing with the Great Lakes community—and hopefully the other states—to make sure the Lakes are protected for everyone’s use, not handed over to powerful special interests,” said Karen Hobbs with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which represents 766,514 members and online activists in the Great Lakes states and over 3 million nationally.
“Today, the League of Women Voters-Lake Michigan Region joins the appeal of the proposed Foxconn water diversion from Lake Michigan. The proposed diversion is based on a mistaken interpretation by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of the Great Lakes Compact and undermines the very important protections the Compact contains. The withdrawal of Lake Michigan water outside of the watershed basin for solely commercial purposes is impermissible. Additionally, the quantity and quality of water proposed to be returned to the basin has the potential to harm the great resource that is Lake Michigan,” said Krista Grimm, President of the League of Women Voters-Lake Michigan Region
The League of Women Voters-Lake Michigan Region is an inter-league organization consisting of over 48 local League chapters in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan as well as their respective state Leagues. The LWV-LMR is a non-partisan grass-roots advocacy and education organization with a mission to protect and promote the environmental quality of Lake Michigan and the Lake Michigan basin.
The two groups will join the other four petitioners at the September 12th pre-hearing conference in Madison.
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As the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, the Great Lakes are a national treasure. They house 20 percent of all freshwater on the surface of the planet, provide drinking water to 40 million people, create habitat for 3,500 species of plants and animals, and support a $4 billion sports fishing industry.
The Great Lakes Compact was created to protect the Great Lakes as a vital economic and cultural resource. Experts from all over the Great Lakes region have spent over 30 years working together to craft and ultimately ratify a good-faith agreement that serves to protect our Great Lakes for future generations.
The City of Waukesha’s request to divert water outside of the Great Lakes basin was the first time the Great Lakes Compact was put to the test in how well it will protect our Great Lakes now and in the future. Now, the City of Racine applied for a diversion of water on behalf of Mount Pleasant for the Foxconn facility. The Compact Implementation Coalition believes it’s vital Wisconsin make smart decisions in requests for exceptions to the ban on diverting water out of the basin and lead our region in protecting our Great Lakes.