Council of Great Lakes Industries on TwitterCouncil of Great Lakes Industries on LinkedIn

Great Lakes States and Provinces Commence Review of Application Submitted by City of Waukesha, WI for Lake Michigan Water Supply

On January 7, 2016, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers began reviewing an application submitted by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin for a public water supply from Lake Michigan. The City, which is located outside the Great Lakes basin but in a county that straddles the basin divide, seeks to divert up to 10.1 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan for public use because groundwater previously used by the City is contaminated with radium. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Compact and Agreement bans diversions of water outside the Great Lakes basin unless certain relatively stringent criteria are met.

Last fall, the State of Wisconsin completed its review of the City’s application and determined that the application satisfies the criteria in the Compact and Agreement. Under the Compact and Agreement, the diversion now must be reviewed and unanimously approved by the Governors of the eight Great Lakes states before it can move forward. The Premiers of Ontario and Quebec provide input to the Governors’ decision-making process.

The Conference of Great Lakes Governors and Premiers (CGLGP) has budgeted more than $260,000 to review the City’s application. CGLGP has scheduled a public hearing for February 18 in Waukesha and established a deadline of March 14 for written comments. Regional environmental groups have urged CGLGP to budget sufficient funds for the review to include at least one public hearing in each of the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces. NGOs also assert that CGLGP must conduct its own technical review of the application, rather than relying on the review conducted by the State of Wisconsin.

In a separate development, the International Joint Commission issued a report on January 19 that offered a 10-year review of the region’s efforts to prevent diversions from the Great Lakes and manage consumptive uses of Great Lakes water. The IJC report identified the Compact and Agreement as a success story in the region’s efforts, but in the press release that accompanied the report the IJC noted that “both ongoing management vigilance and additional scientific advances will be required to maintain that positive momentum,” particularly with respect to “water conservation, accuracy of water use data, and using adaptive management to promote resilience under future climate scenarios.” Among other things, the IJC recommended that the states and provinces consider a binational public trust framework to create redundancy in the framework created by the Compact and Agreement.