WSW: Trying To Keep Debate Over Great Lakes Water Diversion Out Of Court
A long five year process to determine if Waukesha, Wisconsin can withdraw water from Lake Michigan will likely come to an end next month.
Great Lakes Echo Commentator Gary Wilson says the hearings have been very thorough. He says representatives of the Great Lake states are “following the script.” Wilson says making sure they get the process right, can be time consuming.
Waukesha sits just outside of Great Lakes Basin, which means it is not technically eligible for withdrawals under the Great Lakes Compact. But Waukesha’s wells are contaminated with radium. Wilson says there are a couple of provisions in the compact that allow exceptions. He says it’s generally acknowledged that those provisions were written because it was known Waukesha had a problem that would have to be addressed.
The vote taken last week is not binding. But Wilson says it’s likely to set the stage for a meeting in June. Approval of a water withdrawal from the Great Lakes requires a unanimous vote. Minnesota abstained last week, but an abstention from the final vote would not block approval. Wilson says Minnesota’s request for a delay earlier this month, and then its abstention at last week’s meeting were a surprise. He says the official reason Minnesota has given is a desire for more time to review information.
Only the governors of Great Lakes states (or their representatives) will vote at the meeting next month in Chicago. Two Canadian provinces also gave their preliminary approval to Waukesha’s request. Wilson says the Great Lakes compact is among eight states. But they cannot make an agreement with a foreign country. The provinces can advise, just like the states have on Canadian withdrawals.
Wilson says the process was not designed to make it easy for a city to withdraw water from the basin. That’s why it has taken five years to reach the point of a final vote. Wilson says it’s important to diligently follow the process for determining if water should be withdrawn from the Great Lakes. He says the worst outcome would be for the case to end up in court.