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Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative formally challenges approval of Waukesha Diversion

On August 22, attorneys for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative submitted a request for a hearing to challenge the decision by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Council to allow the City of Waukesha, WI to divert water from Lake Michigan for use as a public water supply. The City asserts that the purpose of the challenge is to preserve the long term integrity of the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact because it has “grave concern that [approval of the City of Waukesha diversion application] will set a bad precedent for future applications.” The Cities Initiative plans to submit a written statement that supports its challenge to the Waukesha diversion approval within 30 days of the request.

The Cities Initiative has also written President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau, and the International Joint Commission requesting appropriate action within their authority to stop the diversion. Letters to President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau express several reasons for opposing the Waukesha diversion:

  • Reasonable alternatives to a Great Lakes water supply are available to the City.
  • The City’s plan to return treated water to the Root River would have an adverse impact on the river’s water quality.
  • The area that would be served by the diversion includes communities that are not part of the City of Waukesha.
  • The Compact Council provided inadequate opportunity for public consultation and imposed last-minute conditions on the approval with no opportunity for public comment.

In the letter to the IJC, the Cities Initiative calls upon the IJC to exercise its jurisdiction under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to prevent the diversion.

Under the terms of the Compact, any person aggrieved by any action taken by the Compact Council is entitled to a hearing before the Council. The Cities Initiative asserts that it is an aggrieved person because “[a]llowing a diversion that is contrary to the strict requirements of the Compact threatens the resource that provides drinking water for 40 million people and is the foundation upon which a strong regional economy is based, to the detriment of the members of the Cities Initiative.” After hearing, aggrieved persons are entitled to judicial review of the Compact Council decision in US District Court.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative ( is a coalition of 120+ cities in the United States and Canada that are interested in Great Lakes protection and restoration.

August 22, 2016