Battle is brewing over Great Lakes: Will Cuomo veto application seeking to divert water to Milwaukee suburb?

The Buffalo News, January 9, 2016
Author: Peter Annin

ASHLAND, Wis. – In 1990, the small town of Lowell, Ind., made Great Lakes water history by proposing to divert 1 million gallons of water per day outside the Great Lakes watershed. Under the rules at the time, any water diversion proposal required the approval of all eight Great Lakes governors, and the word on the street was that if Gov. John Engler of Michigan didn’t veto Lowell’s application, Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York would.

The decision date was scheduled for May 8, 1992, and as the dramatic vote approached, word circulated behind the scenes that Michigan and New York had softened their positions, thanks to some last-minute tweaks to Lowell’s application. But the day before the vote, Michigan shocked the state of Indiana – and Gov. Evan Bayh – by releasing a statement saying that Engler planned to deny Lowell’s application.

The Great Lakes states convened by phone the next day anyway. The vote came in alphabetical order. Illinois and Indiana both voted yes. Then Michigan, as expected, voted no. Since that’s all it took, the voting stopped, so the world never got to see whether Cuomo had really softened his position.