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Public record: majority opposes Waukesha quest to divert water

More than 99 percent of those who registered comments in a regional review explicitly opposed or expressed concern over Waukesha’s request to divert Great Lakes water.

More than 11,200 public comments were submitted to the Regional Body and Compact Council on the issue and many opposed the proposal, according to a review of the comments completed by a coalition of environmental groups — the Compact Implementation Coalition consists of River Alliance of Wisconsin, National Wildlife Federation, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Midwest Environmental Advocates and Clean Wisconsin.

The coalition said of the 315 tribes, First Nations, governments, elected leaders, organizations and associations that submitted or signed on to comments regarding Waukesha’s application, 256 explicitly opposed, expressed concern or had unanswered questions about the city of Waukesha’s application.

Also, in six of the eight Great Lakes states and both Canadian provinces, not a single tribe, First Nation, government, elected leader, organization or association submitted or signed on to a comment explicitly supporting Waukesha’s application.

“Anyone paying attention to the polarized nature of today’s political climate knows this level of agreement across political divides and international boundaries is nothing short of astounding,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin of Midwest Environmental Advocates. “The extent of public concern and outcry shown, speaks to how important this first-of-its-kind regional decision will be seen by citizens throughout the Great Lakes region.”

Waukesha, located about 17 miles west of Lake Michigan, wants to divert water from Lake Michigan. To do so, the Milwaukee suburb needs an exception from the Great Lakes compact and agreement that restrict diversions outside the Great Lakes Basin. The city lies outside the Great Lakes basin but is in a county that straddles the basin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources completed its review of the city’s application earlier this year and sent the issue on to the Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec for consideration.

A regional public comment period on the application review closed in mid-March.

Next the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Regional Body and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Compact Council — composed of the eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian premiers — will meet to reach a decision on the application.

The meeting is expected in April. The eight Great Lakes governors are allowed to vote. The council could approve, deny or approve with conditions the application. Only one “no” vote is required to deny the application.

“The public has definitely spoken on this topic, and we feel strongly those voices need to be heard,” said Jennifer Bolger Breceda of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. “We hope this outpouring signals to the Regional Body and Compact Council that they need to take these many, many concerns into consideration while reviewing this flawed proposal and deny Waukesha’s diversion request.”

On the Web

For more information about the application, visit www.protectourgreatlakes.org and http://www.waukeshadiversion.org.

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