As the Great Lakes states prepare for the the final decision on Waukesha, WI’s proposed water diversion from Lake Michigan, members of the public continue to express concern over the precedent-setting vote.
The Toronto Star recently spoke to several interested parties from the Great Lakes region to gauge reaction to the proposed diversion. Bob Duncanson, executive director of the Georgian Bay Association (representing 20 cottage associations), spoke on behalf of the Association and told the start that while they’re glad Waukesha’s request was scaled back considerably from its first incarnation, “we still feel that it sets a bad precedent for protection of the finite water resources in the Great Lakes.”
However, the Star also consulted Gail Krantzberg, a McMaster University engineering and public policy professor with 30 years experience as a Great Lakes scientist and policy analyst. She says she is “cautiously optimistic” that approval of Waukesha’s proposal won’t lead to a bad precedent for other thirsty communities, because the city’s situation is unique. She says that the request is for “drinking water, not golf courses,” addressing critics’ fears that the diverted water will be used for urban expansion. Waukesha submitted the request because its aquifer is depleting and contaminated with radium.
To round out the commentary, the Star consulted Ontario government representatives for comment. It reports that Ontario’s minister of natural resources and forestry told them the province “shared the strong concerns expressed by the public with respect to Waukesha’s original diversion proposal.”
The Star also quoted MPP Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay-Atikokan), who pointed out that the Waukesha application was “amended significantly” – referring to reduction of service-area boundaries and restriction on volume to 31 million litres per day. He also stated that the province “remains apprehensive about any diversion by Waukesha and will continue to voice the concerns of Ontarians.”
However, Ontario was among the preliminary votes in favour of the amended proposal, conducted May 18th. The vote passed 9-0 among Great Lakes states and provinces. Minnesota, the 10th member of the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body, abstained from the vote. Ontario and Quebec will not have a say in the final vote, to take place sometime this month. The original vote was to take place today, June 13th, but appears to have been pushed back.