Waukesha Water Diversion Plan Gets Preliminary Regional Approval

Great Lakes Governors Will Have Final Say, With Decision Expected In June

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A committee of Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces gave the go-ahead Wednesday morning to advance Waukesha’s request to obtain drinking water from Lake Michigan.

The regional group’s preliminary approval says Waukesha’s water diversion application complies with a Great Lakes protection compact if certain conditions are met, including an average limit of 8.2 million gallons a day.

The plan now goes to the Great Lakes governors, where a “no” vote from just one could sink the project.

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During Wednesday’s meeting , Wisconsin panel member Eric Ebersberger said the committee focused on the technical merits of Waukesha’s proposal, instead of what he called, “considerable hyperbole.”

“Judging from the many comments Wisconsin received throughout our extensive public participation process and the many comments the regional body received, the straddling county exception to the ban on diversions is not popular. It’s not popular but it is the law,” he said.

The city of Waukesha sits just outside the Great Lakes Basin, but qualifies to apply for lake water because Waukesha County straddles the watershed.

Minnesota abstained from Wednesday’s vote, and Michigan’s representative said Gov. Rick Snyder will decide on Waukesha’s proposal in about a month, when the governors, or their representatives, meet in Chicago to potentially take final action.

An environmental coalition says it’s disappointed the advisory committee did not completely reject the proposal, which they say is flawed.

Waukesha says it doesn’t have an adequate drinking water supply because of radium contamination in its groundwater.