State regulators have marked as "incomplete" an application from a Wisconsin suburb that hopes to become the first community outside the Great Lakes Basin to divert Great Lakes water under a new regional water protection pact.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources returned the application from the city of Waukesha Wednesday saying the Milwaukee suburb failed to show it has no alternative but to tap Lake Michigan water.
An interstate compact signed in 2008 requires that applicants seeking to divert water beyond the Great Lakes Basin show "no reasonable water supply alternative" exists.
"Waukesha is looking to ace a test but apparently hasn't even filled in all the answers yet," said Alliance President and CEO Joel Brammeier. "Wisconsin DNR is on the ball in sending this application back for a rewrite. This precedent will define what sustainable use of Great Lakes water means under the compact, and the state clearly understands the importance of getting it right."
In a letter Wednesday asking Waukesha to complete a required review of alternatives to Great Lakes water, the DNR wrote: "Through preliminary discussions with representatives for the city it was suggested to us that Great Lakes water was the only viable option for a sustainable water supply; however, subsequent to the submittal of the application, it has been discussed that the city is continuing to examine alternatives to Great Lakes water and is actively considering other sources.”
Waukesha presented its application for Lake Michigan water to Wisconsin regulators in May, becoming the first test to an exception clause in the compact's ban on diverting Great Lakes water to communities that lie entirely outside the basin. The city is eligible to apply for Great Lakes water because it lies within a county that straddles the Great Lakes and Mississippi River divide. That county, Waukesha County in southeastern Wisconsin, is located 18 miles west of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan.
In addition to demonstrating that no reasonable alternative water supply exists, the compact requires that Waukesha commit to returning all the water it withdraws -- less a reasonable amount for consumption -- to Lake Michigan.
The precedent-setting application must not only stand up to the scrutiny of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, it must undergo regional review by the governors of the eight Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York. and the Canadian premiers of Ontario and Quebec. Applications for exceptions in straddling counties must also be approved by all eight of the governors.
Waukesha application >>