LANSING — State Representative Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) introduced a resolution, with bipartisan support, urging Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a request from the city of Waukesha, Wis., to remove 10.1 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, a request that has earned international attention.
Waukesha’s application was reviewed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and was granted a favorable ruling for the diversion on Jan. 7, 2016. Now, all eight Great Lakes governors will need to approve the request in order for it to move forward.
“I respect the process in Wisconsin,” said Wittenberg, “but this is why we have the compact, to protect our Great Lakes from unnecessary harm. On behalf of the citizens of Michigan, we want Gov. Snyder to stand up and protect Michigan’s greatest natural resource and veto this request.”
Waukesha’s request for Lake Michigan water is the first significant challenge the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact has faced since its implementation in 2008. While the compact prohibits water diversions from outside of the Great Lakes basin, there are exceptions for communities located within a county that straddles the basin boundary. Waukesha, located outside of the basin boundary, meets this limited definition of a “straddling community.” However, many other conditions must also be met in order for Waukesha’s diversion application to be in compliance with the compact, and many serious questions have been raised, including the need for the requested amount, the return flow and whether Waukesha has exhausted all other possible options, including conservation options.
“We have just found out here in Michigan, with Flint’s current water crisis, what happens when a decision is based on what is easier and cheaper, rather than finding the best solution to a complex problem” said Wittenberg.
The Great Lakes’ water levels exist in a delicate balance and are currently facing other challenges such as invasive species and pollution. Furthermore, Michigan has an invested interest in ensuring their longtime stability, as the Great Lakes contribute to more than 15 percent of Michigan jobs, and add an estimated $54 billion to the state’s annual economy.