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Great Lakes group gives preliminary approval of Waukesha’s water request

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WAUKESHA — Representatives of Great Lakes states and provinces have given preliminary approval to a precedent-setting request by a Wisconsin city to draw water from Lake Michigan.

City officials want to take water from Lake Michigan and return the treated waste water to the lake.

The regional group, which includes eight states and two Canadian provinces, agreed that the water diversion application by the City of Waukesha complies with a Great Lakes protection compact if certain conditions are met, including an average limit of 8.2 million gallons a day.

Minnesota abstained from voting during a conference call Wednesday, May 18th.

The DNR says Waukesha's current system, which draws water from an aquifer, isn't sustainable and vulnerable to contamination.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly issued the following statement on this matter:

"The states and provinces of the Great Lakes Regional Body have completed their review of our application to borrow and return Great Lakes water.  The Declaration of Finding concludes that Waukesha, with conditions, meets the exception standard of the Great Lakes Compact.

A final decision has not yet been made, but we are hopeful that all the Great Lakes states will agree with the Regional Body’s findings.  The citizens of Waukesha need the healthy and sustainable water supply that only borrowing and returning Lake Michigan water can reasonably provide.

The City of Waukesha greatly appreciates the diligence and dedicated work of the Regional Body for its technical and legal review.  The representatives of the Great Lakes states and provinces, as well as their staffs, came well-prepared and focused on their duties.  Once again, the Compact is providing a great example of regional cooperation and the importance of fact-based decision-making.

Waukesha also appreciates the tremendous work of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The in-depth review and analysis by Wisconsin over more than five years provided the quality information needed by the other states and provinces.

We look forward to working with the Compact Council and to the conclusion of the review process next month."

The Wisconsin Compact Implementation Coalition responded to Wednesday's vote with this statement:

"We are pleased that the Regional Body agreed with us that Waukesha’s proposal as submitted does not meet the requirements of the Great Lakes Compact and is recommending modifications to its proposal. But we are disappointed that the Regional Body did not completely reject Waukesha’s flawed diversion proposal. We need to carefully examine the conditions that the Regional Body has recommended to determine if they uphold the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact. When complete, we will forward our assessment to the jurisdictions and the Regional Compact Council, which is scheduled to meet on June 21 or 22."

Governors of the eight states, or their representatives, will meet in Chicago in late June to consider the regional group's conditional approval and vote on Waukesha's request.

The city says it doesn't have an adequate drinking water supply because of radium contamination in its groundwater.

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