MI Attorney General Challenges Waukesha
Posted on: April 11, 2016

Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued a letter to list his concerns over the City of Waukesha’s proposed bid to divert water from the Great Lakes Basin to replace its own contaminated water source. The letter was addressed the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors’ and Premiers’ Regional Body and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Resources Council.

Attorney General Bill Schuette. photo from www.michigan.gov
Attorney General Bill Schuette. photo from www.michigan.gov

Waukesha’s diversion bid has drawn a number of objections since it was first proposed on January 7th of this year. The Milwaukee Riverkeeper website reports that the bid was three years in the making. Waukesha’s request tests the parametres of two major agreements which outline Great Lakes basin use: the  Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and the 2005  Great  Lakes  –  St. Lawrence  River  Basin Sustainable  Water  Resources  Agreement. Schuette’s press release points out that “a critical element of the agreements is a prohibition on diversion programs to areas outside the Great Lakes basin unless a very specific and narrowly defined set of exception standards are met.”

Because Schuette is not one of the eight great lakes governors, he does not have any formal say in approving or denying Waukesha’s request. However, it’s been noted that he could file a lawsuit depending on the answer to that request.

The release goes on to identify Schuette’s major concerns, listed as follows:

“Since this request is the first of its kind, Schuette has a number of questions he is seeking to have answered in more detail, and is requesting that the City of Waukesha and State of Wisconsin answer the following before the bodies make final decisions on the plan:

  • Need and service area: The City proposes to divert Lake Michigan water for use not only by the City itself, but some other adjoining communities.  Do the other communities included in Waukesha’s proposal actually lack an adequate supply of potable water and need the Lake Michigan water?  Is the larger water supply service area even a “Community within a Straddling County” eligible to apply for diversion under the Compact?
  • Alternatives: Is there a reasonable water supply alternative that would not require Lake Michigan water?
  • Return flow: Does Waukesha’s proposal satisfy Compact requirements for maximizing return flow of Lake Michigan water? Does it include enforceable mechanisms ensuring that the full volume of water will actually be returned to Lake Michigan?
  • Protection of Great Lakes: Does the proposal ensure that there would be no significant adverse impacts to the Great Lakes? For example, will it ensure that invasive species, such as viruses, are not transferred into the Great Lakes through the return flows?”

Schuette’s letter adds to growing dissent in the weeks leading up to April 21st, when the Great Lakes governors meet in Chicago to discuss approval or denial of the request. Like Schuette, the Government of Ontario weighed in as well, even though they do not have formal say.

See Schuette’s full press release here.

See Waukesha’s proposal here.