Legislators Concerned about Waukesha Diversion of Great Lakes Water

A broad, bipartisan group of state legislators from all eight Great Lake States sent a letter to Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to express concerns about the proposed Waukesha diversion of Great Lakes water. The City of Waukesha is applying for an exemption from the ban on diversions of Great Lakes water outside the Great Lakes Basin. Under the Great Lakes Compact, all eight of the Great Lakes States must unanimously agree to the proposed diversion.

The Great Lakes Compact became state and federal law on Dec. 8, 2008, after final approval from the U.S. Congress. Waukesha’s proposal stands to compromise the strong ban on diversions of water out of the Great Lakes Basin and will set a precedent to further erode the necessary environmental protections and water management standards required by the compact.

“Since the compact was signed into law, this is the first time a community has asked for a diversion,” said Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine). “I think the reason so many legislators are concerned is because of a shared sense of needing to get this right. All eight Great Lakes States and the federal government established high standards in the compact. To ignore or diminish those standards in the first application would be a terrible precedent that could threaten the strength of the compact and the law’s ability to protect the Great Lakes in the future,” he concluded.

Although none of the proposed users of the Waukesha diversion are in the Great Lakes Basin, Waukesha is eligible to apply for an exemption from the ban because it is a community within a county that straddles the Great Lakes Basin. Under the terms of the compact, the proposed Waukesha diversion must meet high standards, before basin-wide review and consideration by the other states. The letter legislators sent to Secretary Stepp raised doubts about those standards being met. The letter was submitted as the Department takes public comments as part of its Environmental Impact Statement and Technical Review. Click here for more information.

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