Waukesha water decision expected today

City requesting 8.2 million gallons per day from Great Lakes

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

A vote on Waukesha’s request to divert water from Lake Michigan is expected to happen today in Chicago, with representatives of the eight Great Lakes governors meeting at 11:30 a.m.SR-Waukesha-062716-Athomas-3

The city is seeking to withdraw up to 8.2 million gallons per day, purchasing it from Oak Creek and returning it via the Root River. The closely watched request is the first test of the 2008 Great Lakes Compact, which bans diversions of water to communities outside the Great Lakes basin. The compact includes an exception for communities in counties that straddle the boundaries of the basin. Waukesha is just a few miles to the west of the basin line, which cuts through the eastern portion of Waukesha County.

If any of the eight states votes against the plan, the city’s request will be denied.

The plan originally forwarded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources called for a larger service area that included portions of the towns of Waukesha, Delafield and Genesee and the city of Pewaukee. It would also have allowed for up to 10.1 million gallons per day to be withdrawn from Lake Michigan.

The Great Lakes Regional Body, which is made up of the eight states and two Canadian provinces, scaled back the request in a series of meetings earlier this year. Seven of the states and the two provinces voted for a finding of fact document that limited the request. Minnesota abstained, seeking more time for review.

“Gov. (Mark) Dayton abstained from last month’s vote in order to gather more information about the Waukesha project from a variety of communities and stakeholders who would be impacted if the plan moves forward,” said Matt Swenson, Dayton’s press secretary, in a statement provided Monday. “Gov. Dayton is weighing his decision carefully and will continue his thorough review of the project and its potential consequences ahead of tomorrow’s vote.”

Minnesota and Michigan have put forward an amendment to be taken up by the Compact Council. It clarifies that the original application included a service area that didn’t meet the definition of a community in a straddling county but that the amended area does meet the requirement.

Even with a smaller service area, the application has continued to face opposition. The Compact Implementation Coalition, an alliance of environmental groups that includes Milwaukee Riverkeepers and Midwest Environmental Advocates, has continued to speak out against the plan. Last week, a group of 123 mayors from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative issued a statement to voice their opposition to the plan.

“There is clear evidence that Waukesha has reasonable alternatives to provide safe drinking water to its citizens, and I do not want to see their effluent contaminate the Root River in downtown Racine,” said Racine mayor John Dickert.

BizTimes Milwaukee will provide updates once a decision is made.

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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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