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Water diversion area

RACINE — The City of Racine on Monday submitted a “straddling community” water diversion application to send Lake Michigan water to the southwestern corner of Mount Pleasant, an area that includes the planned Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing campus.

The application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is to extend water service to the part of Mount Pleasant located in the Mississippi River basin, outside the Great Lakes basin. The DNR has review authority and will offer opportunities for public comment.

The application is to divert an average of up to 7 million gallons per day. In 2016, Racine pumped just under an average of 17 million gallons per day. The Racine Water Utility’s authorized capacity is 60 million gallons per day.

The Racine Water Utility serves 34,037 customer accounts, comprising an estimated population of 98,423 in its existing service area. Racine’s water usage in 2016 was about half its 1995 usage levels, as its water use has decreased because of reduced industrial and residential demand.

“This is a straddling community diversion request — not a request for approval to withdraw more water from Lake Michigan,” Racine Water Utility General Manager Keith Haas stated in a news release. “If approved, the diversion will have little if any impact on Lake Michigan water volume or quality. The water utility already has the approved withdrawal capacity and the existing treatment infrastructure to support it.”

The Great Lakes Compact requires that all water that is provided must return to Lake Michigan, less an allowance for consumptive use such as water evaporated through industrial processes or water incorporated into manufactured products. This application complies with this requirement, the release states.

Return flow to Lake Michigan would be treated by the Racine Wastewater Utility, which reportedly has the capacity to handle the anticipated flow. According to Haas, the diversion would benefit local ratepayers by increasing utilization of existing infrastructure.

Water for development

For years, Mount Pleasant has sought to develop its southwestern corner, including obtaining Great Lakes water as a clean, abundant water supply. If approved, the diversion of Great Lakes water within that area would provide a safe drinking water supply to an approximately 2.3-square-mile area of the village.

“While Foxconn will be a user of the water, this application will benefit the entire region,” stated Jenny Trick, executive director of Racine County Economic Development Corp. and spokeswoman for the local Foxconn project team. “If approved, the diversion will support broader I-94 corridor development, creating even more Racine County jobs, patrons and residents, while protecting our area’s greatest natural resource.”

“Expanding water access has been of longstanding interest to the Village of Mount Pleasant,” stated Claude Lois, Foxconn project director for the Village of Mount Pleasant. “If this application is approved, it will help us better serve current and future residents, workers and visitors to our village.”

Water conservation plan

According to the release, the diversion application includes a “comprehensive” plan to improve water efficiency, for a savings estimated at more than 100,000 gallons on an average day in 2019 and increasing to more than 600,000 gallons per average day in 2050. The plan includes efforts to:

Educate customers about the benefits of conservation;

Partner with municipalities to re-evaluate landscaping requirements;

Appoint a water conservation coordinator to lead and monitor water conservation efforts and identify new opportunities for cost-effective water conservation measures; and

Continue to reduce leaks from water infrastructure.

Public commenting, information

The diversion application only requires approval of the DNR, and does not require review by other Great Lakes states or provinces.

The DNR will schedule a public hearing to begin the public comment period for the application. More information on the DNR’s review and outreach process is available at: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WaterUse/Racine/.

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Reporter

Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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