Mayors make final push against Waukesha lake diversion

Mayors make final push against Waukesha lake diversion

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Lake Michigan

A kayaker, powerboat and sail boat

representing human power, wind power and motor power are out in Lake Michigan offshore of North Beach on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Ahead of the final vote on Waukesha’s proposed lake diversion, a group of mayors from around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin reiterated their opposition Thursday.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Ahead of the final vote on Waukesha’s proposed lake diversion, a group of mayors from around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin reiterated their opposition Thursday.

The group included Racine Mayor John Dickert, who said in a statement, “there is clear evidence that Waukesha has reasonable alternatives to provide safe drinking water to its citizens, and I do not want to see their effluent contaminate the Root River in Downtown Racine.”

Representatives of all eight Great Lakes states are set to decide on Waukesha’s application Tuesday. Dickert said local governments are calling on states to “reject Waukesha’s application and protect these vital waters we cherish.”

Waukesha is proposing to divert Lake Michigan water due to problems with its water supply and returning treated wastewater to the lake through the Root River. Waukesha officials argue lake water is their only reasonable alternative and say the diversion would help, not hurt, the Root River.

The group of 123 mayors met as part of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative’s annual meeting and conference, according to a news release. Mayors also worked to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and approved a strategy to reduce phosphorus entering the Thames River, according to the release.

Preliminary approval received

Officials from Great Lakes states and provinces have already given Waukesha’s application preliminary approval.

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body voted 9-0 last month to issue a declaration of finding that the application complies with the Great Lakes protection compact if certain conditions are met. Minnesota’s representative abstained from the vote.

Conditions include an average limit of 8.2 million gallons of lake water per day.

The decision is now in the hands of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council, which consists of governors (or their designees) from all eight Great Lakes states.

The application must be approved unanimously to move forward.

Racine officials have lobbied states to reject it, in large part because the water would be returned to the lake via the Root River. Waukesha says its water utility would have to meet strict standards and that more clean water would be discharged into the Root, improving the river’s health.

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