The city of Racine will be able to divert an average of 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water outside the Great Lakes basin with most of it going to support Foxconn Technology Group’s planned LCD manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant.
Racine applied to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in January for the authority to divert 7 million gallons to serve the southwest corner of the village where Foxconn plans to locate. The department determined the application met the criteria for a straddling community diversion under the 2008 Great Lakes compact and approved the diversion on Wednesday.
The compact bans most diversions of water outside the basin with limited exceptions. Environmental groups argued the diversion was for a private company, potentially violating the compact. The Wisconsin Implementation Coalition asked the Great Lakes Regional Body to take up a formal review of the application.
Most of Mount Pleasant is within the Great Lakes basin, but a portion is in the Upper Mississippi River basin. As a result, it is considered a straddling community and the DNR has the primary authority for reviewing it.
The diversion approved for the city of Waukesha in 2016 relied on a different exception for communities entirely outside the basin but within a county that includes a portion of the basin. In that case, all eight states bordering Great Lakes had to approve the diversion.
An average of 5.8 million gallons per day from the diversion will be used by Foxconn while the remaining 1.2 million gallons will be used by suppliers and other development in the diversion area.
About 2.7 million gallons from the diversion will be lost to consumptive use while 4.3 million gallons will be returned to the lake through the Racine wastewater treatment plant. Most of the consumptive use will be the result of evaporation from the cooling of Foxconn’s manufacturing equipment.
“This approval is a key part of the (City of Racine’s) infrastructure development that will benefit the job-creating growth that will be associated with our investment in Racine County and will facilitate development in the community as a technology manufacturing hub,” Foxconn said in a statement.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason, a former legislator who worked on the passage of the Great Lakes Compact, issued a statement saying he believes the application meets the requirements for a straddling community diversion.
“As the mayor of Racine and a commissioner of the utility that will provide water and wastewater utility to the diversion area, I am committed to ensuring that Foxconn will have to meet or beat every federal, state, and local water standard,” Mason said. “Protecting Lake Michigan will continue to be one of the highest priorities for the city.”
The approval of the diversion is the second major environmental hurdle cleared for Foxconn in as many days. On Tuesday the DNR approved air emissions permits for the campus. The company has also submitted storm water plans to the department. Special session legislation providing Foxconn with incentives exempted the project from requiring an environmental impact statement.