Michigan leaders oppose Wisconsin town's Great Lakes diversion request

Petoskey News, February 10, 2016
Author: Mark Johnson

Concern about the public water supply in a Wisconsin town has community leaders there asking for access to Great Lakes water in a move Michigan officials are opposing.

According to a Department of Environmental Quality press release, Waukesha, Wis. — located about 20 miles west of Milwaukee — is unable to use its current water supply as it contains high levels of radium and the town has been ordered by state officials to address the issue.

Though leaders of the town of approximately 71,489 — according to the U.S. Census Bureau — say it has no other choice than to divert water from Lake Michigan, officials from Michigan and other Great Lakes states disagree.

“We are actually recommending that Gov. Rick Snyder deny approval to the application,” said Jennifer McKay, policy specialist for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “It does not meet the standards put forth in the (Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact).”

According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes website, the compact is a formal agreement between the Great Lakes states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania — created in 2008 to help protect the health of the Great Lakes, as well as prevent diversions of Great Lakes water, similar to what the town of Waukesha is requesting.

According to McKay, the request does not meet measures put forth through the Compact, the first regarding officials presenting a feasible and less expensive alternative to the requested diversion. The applicant must show there is no reasonable alternative water supply, McKay said, which also includes conservation measures.

McKay said there are alternatives available.