We start from the reasonable water supply alternative, because that standard is the crucial threshold you’ve gotta meet, and this question: What is Waukesha’s next-best alternative?
The city has never directly answered that. It has dodged the question in all of its application submittals to date. And to me it’s the first question that the public and all onlookers and decision-makers on this deserve an answer to: If you can’t have the diversion, what would you have to do?
Minnesota Public Radio, May 18, 2016 Author: Dan Kraker
Groups opposing Waukesha's initial application are encouraged by those changes, said Marc Smith with the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation. "But we are disappointed that the Regional Body did not completely reject Waukesha's flawed diversion proposal," he said.
Still, Smith added that his and other groups will examine the new conditions placed on the application to "determine if they uphold the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact."
The compact was passed in 2008 to protect the lakes from attempted water grabs. The compact only allows cities located within the Great Lakes Basin to withdraw water from the lakes. But it allowed for two exemptions, for towns that sit right on the edge of the watershed, or for cities located in a county that straddles that basin dividing line.
The latter exemption would apply to Waukesha, and this application is the first test-case of that exemption in the Great Lakes compact. For that reason, this application has generated intense scrutiny from some groups who fear granting Waukesha an exemption could open the floodgates to other thirsty communities requesting a straw into the Great lakes bountiful waters.
That's why it's important to get this application right, according to the National Wildlife Federation's Smith. "We want the compact to work," he said. "This is really important, because this is the first test."
The review of a Wisconsin city's application to draw drinking water from Lake Michigan has been put on hold for at least a week.
Julie Ekman, Minnesota's representative on a multi-state committee reviewing the plan requested by the city of Waukesha, asked for the delay Wednesday. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ekman said she and other Minnesota officials needed more time to review revisions made to the plan during meetings this week in Chicago.
The Star Tribune, April 16, 2016 Author: Josephine Marcotty
Waukesha, a well-to-do suburb west of Milwaukee, is the first that sits entirely outside the Great Lakes watershed to ask.
The city’s drinking water is contaminated with radium, a naturally occurring pollutant that can cause cancer. In addition, its water comes from deep aquifers that are running dry, and the city is under court order to find another source.
After more than a decade of analysis and reviewing many alternatives, both the city and the state concluded that Lake Michigan is the town’s only reasonable option, and that it fits the requirements of the compact.
The chorus of outraged disagreement, however, has been deafening.
“Waukesha simply assumes that its proposal to seize water from Lake Michigan will solve problems it could have more inexpensively and simply solved without drastic resort to the use of Lake Michigan water,” wrote 100 members of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus, including many legislators from Minnesota.
Duluth News Tribune, March 17, 2016 Author: Gerald R. Robinson (Letter to the Editor)
On March 3, I attended the listening session in Duluth for the request of Waukesha, Wis., to divert and return water from Lake Michigan (“Request for lake water export gets skeptical reception,” March 4).
I am a citizen concerned with protecting the waters of the Great Lakes. There was much information handed out about this request for a diversion. It was very clear to me this request should be refused. The city of Waukesha has many options beyond taking water from the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Compact says Waukesha must return all water it withdraws from Lake Michigan, minus an allowance for consumptive use. Its plan, it seemed to me, did not meet federal compact requirements for return flow. The return discharge into the Fox River in the Mississippi River Basin would see 2 million to 3 million gallons per day, a 15 percent reduction. This likely would have significant impact on fisheries and other aquatic life.
Waukesha should instead upgrade its facilities, do a better job of water discharge and not pose risks for human health.
Industrial water sales in Waukesha have declined by more than 50 percent between 1999 and 2013. However, Waukesha is asking for almost twice the amount of water it currently uses. Requesting such a large volume of water for unsubstantiated industrial growth would seemingly violate the Great Lakes Compact.
Duluth News Tribune, March 12, 2016 Author: Sandy Hamm, Steve Edlund, and Steve Schmuki
For decades Waukesha embraced the annexation of hundreds of acres outside its borders, approved subdivisions large and small, courted commercial sprawl and handed out permits for apartment buildings within its borders, knowing full well it did not have the resources or infrastructure to support the growth — and while claiming a crisis of contaminated water and plummeting groundwater levels. If the crisis was as real as some say, wouldn’t it be responsible to halt expansion until it’s resolved?
But no. The city’s land-use plan shows expansion to the south, west and north with big-box retail, commercial and industrial development along both sides of a 5-mile stretch of state highway. Subdivisions march further outward.
Those of us who have followed and studied this issue for years have done so because we are concerned about our water resources, and we certainly care that all residents of our state have access to clean, safe drinking water. We believe the alternate solutions for Waukesha are many and come at a significantly lower cost — for ratepayers and for the protection of our most precious freshwater resource.
To find out why that’s a good thing, and how this collaborative approach to management even works, CurrentCast caught up with Andrew Slade of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. “[The Compact] doesn’t restrict water withdrawals in those actual communities,” he explains. “But what it does is very clearly restrict transfer of water outside the Great Lakes basin.”
It’s important that these states work together to keep the water local, he says, because piping water out of the Great Lakes could throw off a carefully balanced water system. The compact helps prevent this—in addition to proving once again that thoughtful teamwork can be a real win for the environment.
Wisconsin Public Radio, March 4, 2016 Author: Danielle Kaeding
Not a single person spoke in favor of Waukesha’s plan to get drinking water from Lake Michigan at a public hearing Thursday evening in Duluth, Minnesota.
About 100 people attended the hearing, many of them questioning whether the city meets the standards to divert water under the Great Lakes Compact. Eight governors signed the compact in 2008, agreeing to collectively manage the lakes and ban diversions from the basin, with few exceptions. Waukesha is the first eligible city to request an average of 10.1 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan. However, many of the plan's critics claim the city is asking for more water than it needs to satisfy growth and expansion plans.
The Duluth Tribune, March 3, 2016 Author: Lisa Kaczke
No one spoke in favor of letting Waukesha divert the water during the listening session, held by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the comments made Thursday will be used to inform Gov. Mark Dayton. Just one Great Lakes governor opposing it will derail Waukesha's application.
While Thursday's comments will only go to Dayton, residents can have their comments considered by the compact conference by emailing them email@example.com by March 14.
Andrew Slade, Duluth-based northeast program coordinator for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said independent studies show that Waukesha could get ample water from local wells by adding new filtration technology that would be cheaper than building pipes to Lake Michigan.
“The compact clearly allows a community like Waukesha to apply for a diversion. But the bar for approving a diversion is set very high. It’s essentially allowed only as a last resort,” Slade noted. “In this case, the exception isn’t warranted. They appear to have other viable options.”
Environmental and Great Lakes advocacy groups say lowering the bar to give Waukesha access to Lake Michigan water would set a precedent triggering additional requests by communities or industries just outside the Great Lakes watershed.