Great Lakes Cities Initiative all wet

by James Wigderson | August 25, 2016 7:03 pm

Waukesha Freeman Thursday, 08/25/2016 Pag.A06 Opinion

Great Lakes Cities Initiative all wet

Should worry about Chicago instead

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is all wet. The organization is asking the Great Lakes governors to reconsider their unanimous decision to approve the city of Waukesha’s application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water.

There is nothing new in the cities’ letter asking for the governors to reconsider. They falsely claim that the city of Waukesha has a reasonable alternative to the diversion. This has been carefully examined by the Great Lakes governors and Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. The facts are clear that it is necessary to build the pipeline.

The cities organization also falsely claims that the return flow from Waukesha to the lake will actually harm the Root River. The DNR and the Great Lakes governors agree that the treated water will actually improve the flow on the Root River and will actually help the environment.

Finally, the cities organization complains that there were not enough opportunities for public comment, and that public comments were ignored. This might puzzle residents of Waukesha who will remember the endless discussion of the city’s application. The Wisconsin DNR had seven hearings during that stage of the process. In addition to the one hearing that was legally required under the compact, Minnesota and Michigan both had state hearings. Opponents of Waukesha’s diversion request also had the opportunity to mail in letters to express their views.

It’s silly to say that opponents of Waukesha’s diversion request were ignored. The service area was pared down in the process, as critics demanded. There were other modifications to the application as well. The critics were heard, and answered, but ultimately the science prevailed and Waukesha’s application was approved.

The critics, including the Cities Initiative, also ignore the success of the process. We learned that if the city of Waukesha stopped pumping water from the aquifer that more water would flow to the Great Lakes. Waukesha is already pumping water that naturally flows under the ground into Lake Michigan and discharging it outside the Great Lakes Basin. Instead of taking that water, we’ll be taking Lake Michigan water through a pipeline and returning 100 percent to the Great Lakes Basin.

Which leads to the great irony of the complaints from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. The organization is based in Chicago. The organization is worried about a diversion for Waukesha which will actually result in more water flowing into Lake Michigan, but it’s based in a city that takes 2.1 billion gallons per day and flushes it towards the Mississippi Basin. Chicago is taking 250 times what the city of Waukesha plans to take and when that water is gone, it’s gone.

The irony gets better. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a member of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Perhaps at their next meeting they could ask him to start returning the Lake Michigan water his city has been taking. Of course, Chicago should remove the dead bodies first.

Perhaps the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative should listen to a past president, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who said after Waukesha’s application was unanimously approved, “Today’s vote by Great Lakes Governors reaffirms the integrity of the Great Lakes Compact.The amendments offered by Michigan and Minnesota, and accepted by all eight states, reaffirms and strengthens the definition of a straddling community and provides additional compliance and oversight; both necessary measures for passing such a precedent-setting agreement.”

Perhaps the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative could listen to another member, Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi, who told me on Twitter that he is actually trying to get his name removed from the letter. He also said that he believes the application was properly approved. (Good to know that the city selling us water is on board.)

But the letter from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative isn’t about the science, or their concerns about having input in the process. In the letter, Mayor Sandra Cooper of Collingwood, Ontario, secretary/treasurer of the Cities Initiative, said, “We are taking this step to launch a legal challenge to the Compact Council’s decision regarding the Waukesha water taking application because we do not feel that Waukesha met the rigorous standard set in the Compact to qualify for an exception to the ban on water diversions to communities outside of the basin.”

Yep, here come the lawsuits, the law and the science be damned.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at[1] and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)



Thursday, 08/25/2016  Pag.A06 Copyright © 2016 Conley Group. All rights reserved 8/25/2016
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