Legal and Technical Experts Tell DNR Waukesha’s Application Does Not Comply with Great Lakes Compact
Public largely opposed to application at all three public hearings
WAUKESHA — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held three public hearings last week to hear testimony on the City of Waukesha‘s Great Lakes Water Diversion application and in response to the Department’s release of its draft Environmental Impact Statement and Technical Review on June 25, 2015. The DNR held hearings in the cities of Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine and saw well over 450 attendees, of which at least 100 provided verbal testimony to the DNR.
As of Thursday night, citizens have submitted over 2,600 written comments in opposition to Waukesha’s diversion through channels set up by the CIC and other environmental organizations. This number does not include public comments made directly to the DNR. The Compact Implementation Coalition member organizations worked together with the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club to ensure the thousands of voices from around the region who care about protecting our Great Lakes from diversions that do not fully comply with the Great Lakes Compact are heard as part of the DNR’s formal review of the application. The 60-day comment period during which the public can voice their opinions regarding Waukesha’s Great Lakes water diversion application ends today.
Cheryl Nenn, Riverkeeper at Milwaukee Riverkeeper, said, “We were impressed but in no way surprised at the great turn out at all three public hearings. This is an important issue for our state and our region, and a decision that will affect people’s lives and our Great Lakes, which are only 1% renewable by rain or snowmelt. The number of people at the hearings sends a very clear message to the DNR that the public is taking this diversion decision very seriously and they should too.”
The Compact Implementation Coalition (CIC) is submitting formal comments by 5:00 p.m. to the DNR expressing concerns that the City of Waukesha: 1) has not justified why it needs a daily maximum supply that is more than double its current use; 2) does not consider all reasonable alternatives to provide potable water for its residents; and 3) has not removed its request to divert Great Lakes water to communities who do not need it and who have not employed water conservation measures. The Compact requires these actions before an entity can request an exception from the ban on diversions.
The CIC comments were written by over a dozen legal and technical experts from nine local, state and regional environmental organizations.
“While the CIC’s comments will be some of the more extensive comments in opposition to Waukesha’s request for Great Lakes water, they will not be the only ones,” said Ezra Meyer of Clean Wisconsin. “People from all across the Great Lakes Basin and across Wisconsin care about this world-class resource. They fought hard to see the Great Lakes Compact passed to protect the Lakes for the long run and now they don’t want to see the Compact or the Lakes compromised. People from Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois came to DNR’s hearings last week to tell our natural resources protection agency to say no, as did dozens of people from Racine, Milwaukee, and Waukesha. Residents and ratepayers in Waukesha know this is a bad deal. We are confident that the written comments submitted to the DNR by today’s deadline will reflect an even broader base of grassroots support for the Great Lakes and against Waukesha’s fatally flawed proposal.”
Since the DNR released its draft Environmental Impact Statement and Technical Review on June 25th, the CIC has been working diligently to make sure the public is aware of and fully informed about the very real consequences of approving Waukesha’s water diversion application as it stands.
“What happens in Waukesha doesn’t stay in Waukesha. People from all across the Great Lakes region are concerned that Waukesha’s diversion application does not meet the requirements in the Great Lakes Compact,” said Marc Smith, policy director, National Wildlife Federation.
“The public has spoken: Waukesha’s application to divert Great Lakes water is not in the best interests of the Great Lakes region,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin of Midwest Environmental Advocates. “Wisconsin DNR must maintain the integrity of the Great Lakes Compact in both letter and spirit, by holding Waukesha’s application to its requirements and by making certain the science is sound, the data current, and the public’s questions answered before the application is approved.”
The DNR plans to release its final decision in December. If approved by the Wisconsin DNR, all eight Great Lakes states governors will have the power to approve or deny the proposal and the premiers of two Canadian provinces will formally weigh in on the decision.
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