Groups Urge MI Gov Snyder to Veto Great Lakes Diversion

March 1, 2016

Groups Urge Michigan Governor Snyder to Deny Great Lakes Water Diversion Request

PETOSKEY, MI – Over 25 environmental and conservation organizations and associations from throughout Michigan are urging Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to ensure the protection of our Great Lakes by denying a Great Lakes diversion request by the City of Waukesha, Wis. This diversion proposal fails to meet the legal standards of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact).

The Compact bans water diversions outside of the Great Lakes Basin with limited exceptions. The Compact allows for “communities within straddling counties” not currently using Great Lakes water to apply for an exception to its ban on diversions, but only if the community meets stringent requirements. The city of Waukesha asserts that it needs water from the Great Lakes to address water quantity and quality concerns. The city has long relied on a deep aquifer groundwater supply that has high levels of radium, a naturally occurring radioactive carcinogen, which exceeds federal health standards.

Just because Waukesha is eligible to apply for a Great Lakes diversion, does not automatically guarantee that they get approved. They must demonstrate that they have met the exemption standards of the Compact. All eight Great Lakes governors must approve the application; otherwise, the application is denied. As currently written, Waukesha fails to meet the standards of the Compact. Thus, it should be vetoed.

The proposed Waukesha diversion application is the first since the Compact was adopted in 2008. This application is a critical proving ground for the Compact, establishing its effectiveness and serving as a precedent for subsequent diversion proposals.

Michigan groups believe that Waukesha’s current application falls well short of the Compact’s requirements and therefore, request that Gov. Snyder veto this application on the grounds that it does not meet the exception standard requirements of the Compact.

“Waukesha is only the first of a number of communities that may line up for Great Lakes water in the coming decades,” said Jennifer McKay, policy specialist at Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “Gov. Snyder has no choice but to reject the City of Waukesha’s Great Lakes diversion water application to ensure that the integrity of the Compact to protect our invaluable freshwater resource from unwise use and unnecessary diversions.”

Specifically, Michigan groups sent a letter asking Gov. Snyder to veto the Waukesha diversion request because:

• The City of Waukesha does not justify why it needs to much more water than its currently using. Waukesha’s per capita water use or demand is declining and has been declining for about three decades. Waukesha’s demand forecast for 2050 assumes a significant increase in per capita water use. If anything, per capita water use should decline due to implementation of required conservation measures.

• Waukesha proposed to divert Great Lakes water to communities who do not need it. The city’s application included other towns in Waukesha County that, to date, have not demonstrated that they need Great Lakes water. In fact, some officials in these areas have indicated that they do not need any water either now or in the foreseeable future. Including these communities in the application is not consistent with the Great Lakes Compact.

• Waukesha has not demonstrated that it is without a reasonable water supply alternative. A July 2015 report by two independent engineering firms found that Waukesha has a feasible water supply alternative. The report concluded that Waukesha can use its existing deep and shallow water wells to provide ample clean and safe water to its residents now and in the future if it invests in additional water treatment infrastructure to ensure the water supply meets state and federal standards. Over three dozen other communities in Wisconsin alone, not to mention scores of other communities around the country, have chosen to treat their water and provide safe potable drinking water to their residents.

“The heart and soul of the Great Lakes Compact is the ban on diversions. Waukesha fails to meet the standards of the Compact,” said Marc Smith, policy director, National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Regional Center. “As the first diversion proposal under the Compact, this is serving as a precedent. We have to get this right.”

Signatories to the letter include:
Burt Lake Preservation Association • Dwight Lydell Chapter, Izaak Walton League of America • Elk-Skegemog Lakes Association • For Love of Water • Friends of Clam Lake • Friends of the St. Joe River Association • Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities • Huron River Watershed Council • League of Women Voters of Michigan • Lone Tree Council • Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch • Michigan Clean Water Action • Michigan Environmental Council • Michigan League of Conservation Voters • Michigan United Conservation Clubs • Mullet Lake Area Preservation Society • National Wildlife Federation • Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council • Pickerel-Crooked Lakes Association • Sierra Club Michigan Chapter • Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment • Three Lakes Association • Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council • Torch Lake Protection Alliance • The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay • West Michigan Environmental Action Council • Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve

For more information, please visit:

Jennifer McKay, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, 231-347-1181,

Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, 734-255-5413,

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