Waukesha Water Diversion Compromise Likely

While the representatives of the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces have yet to reach a decision on Waukesha’s application to divert Lake Michigan water to replace its radium-tainted aquifer, it appears the group is leaning toward a compromise in favor of the application, according to Ezra Meyer, water resource specialist with Clean Wisconsin, who has attended every minute of the multiple meetings.

Clean Wisconsin is part of a coalition of environmental groups under the heading of the Compact Implementation Coalition which has opposed the diversion from the start and has even come up with an alternative and less costly plan for Waukesha.

The regional group first met in Chicago on April 21-22, and held a half-day conference call on May 2. They are scheduled to reconvene in Chicago on May 10-11.

“What they’re officially to create is a declaration of findings on the Waukesha diversion proposal, and that becomes in essence their recommendation to the Compact Council on what’s what as it relates to this proposed diversion,” Meyer said.

The Compact Council, made up of the governors of the eight states bordering the Great Lakes, will then meet no sooner than 30 days after the May 10-11 meeting to make a binding decision. The two Canadian provinces are not are part of the Compact Council, but their input must also be weighed in the decision.

“We have seen clear signals of the leaning of this regional body group through their now 24-plus hours of deliberation,” Meyer said. “While there is no final decision, they are of a mind Waukesha cannot divert to some of the surrounding communities included in the proposal. These folks are saying that’s not in keeping with the Great Lakes Compact. But they are inclined to say yes to a diversion to the current area Waukesha water utilities serve.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has already stated his support for the water diversion. Meyer said Illinois seems ready to approve with conditions, while Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Quebec are advocating strong conditions attached to the approval.

“Ontario, Indiana and Pennsylvania are less strident in opposition,” he said.

Meyer said credit should be given to the folks sitting at the table.

“They have really engaged the technical issues in a robust way,” he said. “Their argument is technical in its basis. We just sort of differ in our interpretation. We come to our conclusion that a no is a right answer. This doesn’t meet the compact’s requirement. Using current well infrastructure, you can pump and treat for radium and meet the needs. Nothing about that point changes for us whatsoever. The answer to the question is a no. It deserves to be denied.”

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