Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

November 27, 2006

Group urges Wisconsin DNR to follow rules on Great Lakes water request

Filed under: Great Lakes Compact,Water Diversion,Wisconsin — nemo @ 10:17 pm

mlive.com is reporting that an environmental group is urging the Wisconsin DNR to abibe by rules requiring approval from the eight U.S. state govenors and Canada before acting on New Berlin’s proposal to draw more than 1.8 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan.

The important point in this article is that Wisconsin may disregard the Compact and decide on its own to withdraw water:

A spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources contends the proposal doesn’t fall under the category of requests that require full consent, and that the DNR might handle the decision alone.

The Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes said on Monday it’s not up to the DNR to decide, noting that the federal Water Resources Development Act of 1986 requires any diversion of Great Lakes water to be approved by the Great Lakes governors.

“Some states are going down the slippery slope of coming up with their own definitions of what’s a diversion,” said Alliance spokeswoman Cheryl Mendoza. Mendoza said the federal act defines a diversion as any water diverted out of the lake.

But Bruce Baker, deputy administrator of the DNR’s water division, said a water transfer is only considered a diversion when the water is removed from the lake but not replaced.

Representatives of the eight Great Lakes states ā€” Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin ā€” and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario formally approved a compact last December that would legally obligate those states to block diversion of water to areas outside the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact still awaits congressional approval, which could take two years or more.

Baker said in absence of congressional approval of the compact, the DNR could proceed in three ways: handle the request itself as it has historically done; make the decision under the authority of Gov. Jim Doyle without consulting other states; or request approval from all the Great Lakes states.

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