Jan 19, 2017

Waukesha, Wis., Faces Opposition on Drinking Water Plan

City seeks to pipe water from Lake Michigan, despite being outside the Great Lakes Basin

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Waukesha, Wis., officials have faced opposition for their plan to pipe in drinking water from Lake Michigan.

The Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative, a group of U.S. and Canadian mayors, has asked the Great Lakes Compact Council representing surrounding states for a rehearing on the council's decision to approve the diversion last June.

Waukesha would be the first community outside the Great Lakes Basin to get lake water under terms of an agreement approved in 2008 called the Great Lakes Compact, which allows cities in counties that straddle the basin to apply for Great Lakes water.

The initiative's executive director, David Ullrich, said the coalition's concerns center around the substance of the council's decision, the procedures used and the standards applied in making the decision.

"We believe that a mistake was made by approving the diversion and that, as the first formal action by the Compact Council, to allow that to stand would be harmful to the compact in the long term," said Ullrich.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly was not concerned about a possible reversal, saying an approved decision that took a significant amount of time is unlikely to be reversed.

Racine Mayor John Dickert said that a federal lawsuit is possible if the council doesn't take a second look. Dickert, a member of the initiative, doesn't like that Waukesha's plan to return wastewater to the lake is via a river that flows through his city.