Michigan not sold on Waukesha’s water application

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:20 pm

Michigan officials reviewing Waukesha’s application to withdraw Great Lakes water say there are “important legal questions” remaining before the city could get the go-ahead to obtain up to 10.1 million gallons per day.Waukesha water

The comments come in the state’s technical review of the proposal, which is being reviewed by regulators in eight states and two Canadian provinces surrounding the Great Lakes.

Waukesha faces a 2018 court ordered deadline to find a radium compliant source of water. The city, which is just outside the Great Lakes basin, is seeking to divert water through Oak Creek under a provision in the 2008 Great Lakes Compact that allows communities in counties that straddle the basin line to apply for an exception to a ban on diversions.

The states and provinces are reviewing the application as part of the Great Lakes Regional Body. They will be meeting in April to possibly forward a recommendation to the Great Lakes Compact Council, which is made up of just the eight states. The governors, or a representative of each governor, must all approve the plan for Waukesha to get water.

Michigan’s technical review was submitted by a March 22 deadline, but the report’s authors said they have not reached a final conclusion.

“The state of Michigan continues to seek clarity from the State of Wisconsin and the applicant and awaits a response to its third round of questions,” the review says.

Waukesha is seeking water for not only the city, but a potential expanded service area that includes portions of the towns of Waukesha, Genesee and Delafield and the City of Pewaukee. Waukesha and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say that service area is required under state law, but the Michigan review raised questions about whether it meets the requirements of the compact.

“The city of Waukesha has demonstrated that Waukesha and the area it currently serves is without adequate supplies of potable water, but the remainder of the proposed water supply service area has not,” the report says.

The report also questions whether the water service area proposed in the application falls under the definition of “Community within a Straddling County.”

The report also included findings favorable to Waukesha’s case, including that the city’s current needs cannot be met through a reasonable alternative or through conservation. It also says the scale of the withdrawal would not have any direct or indirect adverse effects on the integrity of the basin and there could be important net benefits to natural resources in the region by allowing rehydration of the deep aquifer.

Michigan is not the only state to send questions to the DNR. Illinois, Minnesota and Quebec have also submitted questions focusing on a variety of areas.

Ontario has also submitted a technical review indicating that more information is needed to fully evaluate the proposal. Like Michigan, the province took issue with the water service area, but also questioned whether enough alternatives were considered.

“Ontario acknowledges that the Wisconsin DNR analyzed six alternatives as part of their technical review,” the document says. “However, the government of Ontario is concerned with the process and approach used to select and analyze the potential alternatives. Based on our review, it appears the applicant was afforded a great deal of discretion in determining which options to evaluate as reasonable.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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