Schuette opposes Wisconsin city’s bid to tap lake water

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette said Thursday he is challenging a Wisconsin community’s bid to draw water from the Great Lakes.

Waukesha, located in Southeast Wisconsin, has applied to pull 10 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan. Such diversions are governed by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrewnce River Water Resources Regional Body and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Council.

Schuette has sent notice to both bodies of his concerns about the project. Among those is the fact Waukesha is not in the Great Lakes basin, but in the Mississippi River basin.

“The Great Lakes are one of the greatest resources not only for Michigan, but for the entire country,” Schuette said in a press release. “Waukesha’s request to divert millions of gallons from Lake Michigan is very serious and, unless the strict exception standard is met, should be denied. Our Great Lakes water resources are far too important to allow a major disruption without intensive research and an approval from all the Great Lakes states.”

International law governing withdrawals from the lakes set a series of requirements for any diversions to areas outside the basin. They include:

■Diversions must go to public water supplies.

■Applying communities must be without enough potable water.

■Communities must have no reasonable alternative within their own basin.

■Diversions must not “endanger the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.”

Schuette is questioning whether all of the communities that would receive water from Waukesha’s diversion are without other alternatives. In addition, he wants a clarification about whether Waukesha’s plan meets criteria for returning water flow to the Great Lakes.

“Because Waukesha’s application is the first of its kind under the (Great Lakes Compact), it is essential to get this right,” according to Schuette’s letter to the governing councils. “My basic position is to oppose water diversion from the Great Lakes in order to preserve this precious resource for future generations.”

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