, , , , ,

Environmentalists Say Foxconn No Longer Needs Lake Michigan Water Diversion

Group Has Been Involved In Lawsuit With DNR Since May

Racine waterfront along Lake Michigan
Racine waterfront along Lake Michigan. Amy Meredith (CC BY-ND)

An environmental law center suing the state Department of Natural Resources over the decision to divert water to Foxconn Technology Group for its manufacturing plant says the company’s change of plans should put the water diversion on hold.

Midwest Environmental Advocates in May challenged the DNR’s approval of a city of Racine request to divert 7 million gallons of water per day outside the Great Lakes Basin.

Sarah Geers, an attorney with the group, said the reason that Foxconn needed so much water was to manufacture LCD screens. This week, Reuters reported Foxconn might be moving away from manufacturing television screens and would instead focus on engineering and development.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“Plans for the site have changed in fundamental ways since this project was first pitched to the public,” Geers said. “In light of these dramatic changes, we are carefully evaluating how Foxconn’s new plans affect the city of Racine’s planned diversion of Great Lakes water.”

A DNR spokesman said the department hasn’t received a request to modify or rescind the diversion approval so it remains valid.

Geers said while the Foxconn changes are being evaluated, the group will continue with the lawsuit as planned. Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a brief with the judge overseeing the case in December. The city of Racine filed a brief this week.

Geers said she expects a decision within the next few months.

The Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a legal action under the Great Lakes Compact in May. The group is representing six entities: Milwaukee Riverkeeper, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, League of Women Voters Lake Michigan Region, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Natural Resources Defense Council and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Meanwhile, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research group, Good Jobs First, weighed in on the Foxconn changes.

Greg LeRoy, who heads the organization, said the DNR should immediately stop the water diversion in light of the most recent Foxconn news.

“Struck me as unusual to begin with and any environmentalist should be concerned,” LeRoy said. “And now, presumably, the company won’t need that waiver. The question is how much the county and the local authorities (have) already paid for the infrastructure. They should make them whole.”