Greeley and Hansen Engineering has been selected to manage construction for the diversion of Lake Michigan water to the Town of Waukesha, Wisconsin, a Milwaukee bedrooom community. CH2M Engineering will be a key sub-contractor. Lake Michigan is located entirely within the U.S. Waukesha is not actually very far from Lake Michigan, only 27 km. Neither is it outside the Lake Michigan watershed. Rather, it sits astride the watershed, partially inside, partially outside.
In June, the diversion plan approved unanimous support from Governors in all Great Lakes states but strong opposition elsewhere. Rationale for opposition to the project is based on fear that this initial diversion will set a precedent and lead to other “exceptions” and diversions of Great Lakes water. Six years of review by Wisconsin, the other Great Lakes States and Ontario were very contentious.
Some of the most significant opposition comes from the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a group which terms itself, “a unique and united political voice active in the protection, restoration and enhancement of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.” The group includes mayors from communities around the entire Great Lakes – St. Lawrence system. The front page of the GLSCI website proclaims that the group will formally challenge Waukesha’s actions. Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs is a former chair of the group, which held its annual meeting in Thunder Bay in 2014.
On a more detailed level, Waukesha will buy water from the Town of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, building new pipe to get the water to Waukesha. The Town of Waukesha will treat the water after use and return it to the Root River, from where it will flow back to Lake Michigan through the Town of Racine, Wisconsin. Under terms of the agreement, Waukesha can withdraw up to 8.2 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day. Waukesha’s current water supply is contaminated with radium and a layer of shale inhibits groundwater recharge from the town’s aquifer.
An Excellent Waukesha Primer – 9′ Detroit Public TV Video