Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

November 22, 2006

Comments regarding New Berlin diversion application

Filed under: Great Lakes Issues,Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 7:50 pm

The Capital Times reports on comments received from the other seven Great Lakes states and two Canadian Great Lakes provinces regarding the New Berlin water diversion application:

Federal regulations require New Berlin to upgrade the quality of its drinking water by Dec. 8; the DNR has given the city until the spring of 2007 to get into compliance with a permanent solution.

Proposals to divert water out of the Great Lakes basin must win the unanimous approval of all Great Lakes states, according to U.S. law and a Canada-U.S. compact. New Berlin’s diversion plan would supply water to that part of the fast-growing city that is beyond the Great Lakes basin’s subcontinental divide and would return it to Lake Michigan. The early reviews from those jurisdictions are arriving at the DNR, suggesting that the New Berlin application is not complete and comprehensive, according to documents released under the state open records law.

New York: On Aug. 15, New York officials said the application was without key studies, complete data, adequate water supply descriptions, enough system and geological maps and “descriptions of the situation and feasible options.” New York opined that there was “no evidence that the applicant is aware of or familiar with the full range of applicable state and national regulations, laws, agreements or treaties” and cited other deficiencies or possible inaccuracies. Additionally, New York observed that “the statement of no cumulative impacts is unsupported by any data in the document and does not address potential cumulative impacts to Lake Michigan water levels, shoreline, other users, water-dependent natural resources, etc.”

Illinois: On July 14, Illinois officials suggested the application could be strengthened with data of “forecasts of future water use, both inside and outside the Great Lakes basin.” Illinois also suggested that New Berlin extend its sprinkling ban, evaluate the effectiveness of its conservation planning, and expand its search for well-water alternatives to its proposed Lake Michigan diversion that could eliminate the need for a diversion.

Michigan: On Sept. 25, the state of Michigan said it would not begin a formal review until a full-scale diversion application was received. On Oct. 31, its attorney general said that without a formal application meeting federal standards provided by the U.S. Water Resources Development Act, New Berlin could not proceed.

Province of Ontario: Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes basin have an advisory role – but not a veto – when Great Lakes states want to divert water outside of the basin. On Oct. 5, David Ramsey, the minister of the Ontario Provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, welcomed the application’s pledge to return diverted water to the lake, but also added these criticisms:

“It does not appear that the city has developed or implemented a conservation plan” or similar plans for the conservation of the additional, diverted water.

“Individual and cumulative environmental impact assessments do not appear to have been undertaken” regarding the benefits of using and returning Lake Michigan diverted water.

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