Friday, February 23, 2007

Barrett Takes Strong Anti-Sprawl Water Use Position

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told a group of Great Lakes water conservationists in Milwaukee Thursday
that Wisconsin and the other seven states bordering the lakes must adopt a strengthened Great Lakes Compact.

Barrett also said that water should not be diverted from Lake Michigan to either the City of Waukesha or New Berlin to fuel suburban sprawl.

Diversions across the subcontinental divide to Waukesha and western New Berlin are currently barred by federal law: the Compact, under proposed and pending amendments, would establish standards and procedures that could, under limited circumstances, permit Lake Michigan diversions to those two Waukesha County communities.

As the Mayor of the municipality most likely to be asked to supply Lake Michigan water to New Berlin and Waukesha, and also as Mayor of the city in the region being most harmed by suburban sprawl, Barrett's remarks are significant.

His statement adds urgency to the need for the state legislature to ratify and implement the amended Great Lakes Compact in Wisconsin. His remarks also illuminate the relationship of water to both city and suburban growth.

Adopting the Compact has been endorsed by many leading Wisconsin environmental organizations, as well as Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson.

However, the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce believes the Compact's underlying principle of unanimous decision-making by the eight Great Lakes states on diversion approvals should be abandoned.

If that were to occur, the Compact could easily be rejected by other states, jeopardizing wise management of Great Lakes water and harming the region's economy.

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