Governors to vote on city’s request for Lake Michigan water

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SH01L197WATERLAKES Dec. 12, 2001 _ Beginning 10,000 years ago, retreating North American glaciers carved out a marvel of nature so vast that it is easily identifiable from outer space. Together, the Great Lakes contain one-fifth of all the drinkable water on the surface on the planet _ an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons. (SHNS photo courtesy […]

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin city’s unprecedented request to draw its water supply from Lake Michigan has met some late opposition from U.S. and Canadian mayors within the Great Lakes basin.

The eight Great Lakes governors are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Chicago for a final vote on Waukesha’s $207 million plan to tap Lake Michigan water and return fully treated wastewater. The Milwaukee suburb would be the first U.S. community outside the Great Lakes drainage basin to use lake water since a compact to protect the Great Lakes became law in 2008.

Waukesha’s drinking water is tainted with naturally occurring radium, and the city says Lake Michigan, about 20 miles away, is the best alternative.

Mayors across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin are urging the governors to reject Waukesha’s request, including Racine Mayor John Dickert.

“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,” Dickert said in a statement. “Local government across this region and in both the U.S. and Canada are calling on the governors of eight Great Lakes states to reject Waukesha’s application and protect these vital waters we cherish.”

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said none of the alternatives studied were found to be reliable sources for a long-term, sustainable water supply.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of 123 mayors and other local officials.

The Michigan Senate adopted a resolution last month opposing Waukesha’s request.

Representatives of Great Lakes states and provinces have given preliminary approval to the Waukesha plan. Last month the regional group 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. The group includes eight states and two Canadian provinces. Minnesota abstained from voting.

The diversion plan requires a unanimous vote by governors or their representatives Tuesday when the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council meets in Chicago.

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