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Court of Appeals decision prevents company from bottling water near Lake Superior

Years-long legal fight centered around debate over preserving water resources

Group Pushes Back Against Bottled Water Proposal
The grassroots citizens group Lake Superior Not For Sale, which represents more than 2,200 members, has pushed back against a proposal by the company Kristle KLR to bottle and sell water from a well near Lake Superior in the Town of Clover — commonly known as Herbster.
Danielle Kaeding/WPR

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Tuesday prevented a company from bottling and selling water from a private well in the Lake Superior watershed.

The decision is the latest development in a years-long legal battle. In 2021, start-up Kristle KLR was denied a county permit that would’ve allowed it to operate a pumping facility in Bayfield County. 

At the time, opponents feared the plan would allow the business to exploit a loophole in a landmark agreement barring water diversions from the Great Lakes. Developers argued the well would access a confined aquifer that would not harm the surrounding water table, wetlands or Lake Superior.

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The company appealed the county’s decision to no avail, before taking it to the local circuit court and eventually the court of appeals. Kristle KLR’s plan faced opposition from environmental groups and the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribe.

In December 2022, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a brief with the appeals court on behalf of Lake Superior Not for Sale, an organization that formed to oppose “water commercialization” in the Lake Superior Basin. 

Rob Lee, an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, said in a statement that Lake Superior is an environmental, cultural and economic treasure. 

“Midwest Environmental Advocates has been honored to work with Lake Superior Not for Sale and the rest of the community to prevent the exploitation of this valuable resource,” he said.

In a statement, Jen Boulley, with the Lake Superior Not for Sale group, said the organization was “greatly satisfied” that the Court of Appeals affirmed a Bayfield County Circuit Court ruling that blocked the project.

“We stand in solidarity with all who protect the water but mostly with water herself,” she said. “Water is fiercely persistent and everything will bend to her will if we force her hand.”