Public Opposed to Waukesha’s Lake Michigan Diversion
96% of Written Comments in Opposition to Waukesha’s Proposal
WAUKESHA – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) recently released the more than 3,624 written public comments and 128 verbal testimonies regarding the City of Waukesha‘s request to divert Great Lakes water. Of those written comments, 3,523 explicitly oppose or raise serious concerns about Waukesha’s application as it stands, while only 84 explicitly support the application.
A wide range of groups, including regional tribal commissions, international, regional, state and local environmental organizations and Waukesha-area businesses submitted written comments over the 60-day public comment period, which ended August 28, 2015.
Concerns ranged from relatively small edits to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to calls for further analysis of the deep groundwater aquifer, to fully vetted alternatives from experts attempting to find the best solution for supplying Waukesha’s residents with clean drinking water. By far the longest and most detailed comments came from the Compact Implementation Coalition and a group of civil rights organizations including the ACLU and NAACP Milwaukee Chapter.
Individual residents across the Great Lakes region also heavily weighed in, submitting over 300 individual written comments, of which 80% explicitly opposed or raised serious concerns about the application. People asked for increased analysis of economic impacts, consideration of racial justice concerns, and pointed to a lack of public participation throughout Waukesha’s application process. An overwhelming majority of individuals, including many of Waukesha’s own residents, took issue with Waukesha’s approach to the entire application and had major misgivings about the ramifications this application could have for the health and protection of the Great Lakes.
The WDNR will respond to comments regarding its draft EIS the next few months. The WDNR is expected to release its final decision as to whether Waukesha’s application is approvable in late 2015 or early 2016. If found approvable, Waukesha’s application will be forwarded to the Regional Body, which consists of the eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian premiers, for consideration. The Compact Council, which is made up of only the eight Great Lakes governors, will then either approve or deny the application, taking into account the Regional Body’s findings.
All comments, along with recordings and transcripts of all three hearings, can be found on the DNR’s city of Waukesha Water Diversion Application webpage:
Here are few highlights from public comments that oppose Waukesha’s application:
“I am a city of Waukesha resident and I am appalled at the request our local Water Utility (WU) and City Leadership has taken in requesting a permanent diversion of Lake Michigan water, from the great lakes drainage basin.”
– Waukesha resident
“Clearly, this is a complex and emotional situation. As such, the public should be given as many opportunities to learn and comment on the project as is reasonable, and unfortunately this has not happened…It appears the diversion is a foregone conclusion rather than something in which the public is a full participant.”
– Milwaukee Resident
“Since writing my earlier letter I see nothing in the Diversion Application Environmental Impact Statement to indicate that a professional economic study of the demand for water in Waukesha has been conducted. When establishing the “need” for water, no economist would accept an
assertion of need without reference to price.”
– Economics Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
“Piping is not so innovative. It is a simple-minded solution which would set a devastating precedent. Cleaning, conserving, and building where the resources already exist are better solutions in my opinion…Waukesha should not divert water from the Lake Michigan watershed, as I believe it could cause large scale problems for the great lakes, and water quantity, quality, and policy. We have hit a limit…Let us help them, but not by piping water to where it doesn’t belong.”
– Wauwatosa resident
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