Great Lakes group approves Waukesha's water request

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."