June 26, 2016
Waukesha Pipeline Sets Great Lakes Compact Precedent
On June 21, 2016, representatives from New York and seven other Great Lakes
states unanimously approved a measure allowing Waukesha, Wisconsin
a municipality located outside the Great Lakes watershed to
divert water from
Lake Michigan for use in its community. Waukesha's application required
state in the Great Lakes Compact. See Great Lakes states approve water diversion for Waukesha, Wis., T.J. Pignataro, Buffalo News, June 21, 2016.
The Great Lakes Compact prohibits diverting water from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence
River Basin to areas beyond counties straddling the drainage basin
under any circumstances. Waukesha is 1.5 miles west of the basin
divide, but it is in a straddling county so it was eligible under
the Compact to ask for lake water to solve public health or environmental
problems. Local officials asked to use Lake Michigan's water because
groundwater in their community is contaminated with radium.
A number of environmental groups in New York had urged Governor Cuomo to veto
the plan. See
Green groups urge Cuomo to veto Great Lakes water diversion, Capitol Pressroom and Brian
Mann, North Country Public Radio, April 27, 2016.
Elizabeth Moran with Environmental Advocates of New York, said
Waukesha had other options. She said, "They can treat the radium in their water. They don't have to have the water from
the Great Lakes. That's a key part of the compact, evaluating that
every option has been looked at. Waukesha hasn't done that."
Opponents argued that the diversion
would set a precedent for future withdrawals from the Great Lakes
and risked nearby communities with wastewater returns. "Whatever decision that Governor Cuomo will make or all the Great Lakes governors
will . . .
set a precedent for whatever future application of Great Lakes
water may come. So we want to make sure that precedent is the right
one," said Marc Smith,
policy director with the National Wildlife Federation.
The precedent has now been set.
Posted by Rachel Treichler 06/26/16.