Minnesota Abstains in Preliminary Water Diversion Approval

In a May 18 telephone conference, representatives from seven Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces gave approval to the city of Waukesha’s request to divert water from Lake Michigan. Minnesota abstained from voting while key officials there continue to exam the diversion plan.

The approval includes conditions the regional body placed on the application, which included limiting the distribution area, reducing the daily diversion from 10.1 million gallons to 8.2 million gallons.

The final decision on the request will be made by the Compact Council, which consists of only the governors of the eight Great Lakes states, who will meet on June 21/22.

Waukesha’s application to divert water from Lake Michigan is the first test of the Great Lakes Compact, a regional pact banning the diversion of Great Lakes water outside the basin, with limited exceptions.

Under the Great Lakes Compact, any diversion application must be approved by all eight Great Lakes states. The two Canadian provinces bordering the lakes, Ontario and Quebec, are allowed to provide input. Any state may veto the diversion application.

The Wisconsin Compact Implementation Coalition, a group of Wisconsin conservation and environmental organizations that works for effective implementation of the Great Lakes Compact, contends that Waukesha’s plan does not meet the standards of the Compact designed to protect the Great Lakes. The coalition issued the following statement after the decision:

“We are pleased that the Regional Body agreed with us that Waukesha’s proposal as submitted does not meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact and is recommending modifications to its proposal. But we are disappointed that the Regional Body did not completely reject Waukesha’s flawed diversion proposal. We need to carefully examine the conditions that the Regional Body has recommended to determine if they uphold the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact.”

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