Friday, March 29, 2019

Foxconn diversion would be #5 for environmental outlier Wisconsin

[Updated from 3/11/17 and 3/12/18] Before Foxconn, there was Waukesha, New Berlin, Menomonee Falls and Pleasant Prairie.

*  I'm adding to this posting a key insight from the challenge to the Racine/Foxconn diversion - - the full text is here - - that one diversion can lead to an another and another, thus upending the Great Lakes Compact's goal of limited water diversions and overall water conservation:

Thus, DNR’s approval of the Racine diversion establishes a misguided and dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for the Great Lakes region. This precedent opens the door to diversions throughout the Great Lakes basin—to any customer and for any purpose—as long as the in-basin community supplying and receiving back the returned water does so through a public water system. Respondents’ blatant misinterpretation of the public water supply purposes requirement will lead to comparable attempts by other municipalities to advance diversions that serve purposes entirely unrelated to “largely residential customers.” It follows that in-basin communities and their public water supply systems could serve as ready conduits to any number of water-intensive industries, mining operations, or power plants located outside the basin. This result controverts a central tenet of the Great Lakes Compact:Exceptions to the ban on diversions are to be strictly limited. p.16.
So don't let the Foxconn diversion divert you - - a complete archive about Foxconn is here - - from our state's greedy, arrogant and even slippery connections to Great Lakes water which only enhance our fast-growing identity as an environmental outlier:
Wisconsin is light years away from the nationally-leading environmental state bequeathed to us by John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson and generations of preservationist activism.
The decline and fall of Wisconsin's environmental stature is due to Scott Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' and pro-polluter record that intentionally turned Wisconsin into a donor-driven and special-interest-favor dispensing and pollution-enabling environmental outlier...
That the Walker-controlled-and-debased and-corporatized WI DNR has the sole vote on whether the Walker-driven Foxconn project wins its jaw-dropping demand for 7 million gallons daily of Lake Michigan water shouldn't be seen as Wisconsin suddenly deciding to grab Great Lakes access and take the water - - literally - - for granted.
Lake Michigan 
If approved, the diversion for Foxconn will be the fifth diversion of Great Lakes water to a Wisconsin community under, and sometimes around whatever were the rules at any given time - - making Wisconsin a more pronounced outlier on environmental issues, particularly under Walker, his GOP-led legislature, an equally-partisan and environmentally-dismissive GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel and the big business interests they serve without question.

So don't lose sight of our state's history and its additional diversions:

* The City of Waukesha won the first diversion of water to a community completely outside the Great Lakes basin under current law - - a 2008 water sharing agreement (Compact) among eight US states and two Canadian provinces - - but not before a lengthy battle that was extended by the DNR's insistence at Waukesha's behest that diverted water be allowed to flow through Waukesha to open land beyond its borders and into neighboring communities which not applied for a diversion.

Update - - No other such diversion has been applied for, or approved by, the Compact states since, official records show. And the Foxconn diversion is only the second - - Waukesha's being the first - - in the eight-state region to raise any issues that bring the Compact into play, even for just one state, since the Compact was ratified and implemented in 2008.

*  While the Great Lakes Compact was under review by the Great Lakes states prior to its 2008 ratification, the DNR approved a diversion from the City of Milwaukee to a portion of the City of New Berlin that is outside of the Great Lakes basin.

The approval for New Berlin was delayed by a rewrite following harsh objections by environmental groups - - and other Great Lakes states to which the DNR had sent the application as a courtesy.

As I'd noted:

...raising objections were the state of Illinois, and, in an advisory capacity, the Canadian province of Ontario, plus a long list of environmental and conservation organizations that raised significant questions of New Berlin and the DNR about the application's adequacy, accuracy, and completeness.
The State of New York's criticisms were brutal: I summarized them this way in a Capital Times column last year, quoting from the New York document provided through Open Records from the DNR:  
"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," I wrote, "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.'"
*  In 1986, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson unilaterally approved a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Pleasant Prairie - - a community in Kenosha County close to, but outside of, the Great Lakes basin. The law in place at the time which governed diversions of Great Lakes water said all eight Great States governors would have to approve such diversions; Thompson received only five approvals and looked past three responses which never came, deciding without any firm rejections he had all the approvals he needed. 

And no other state challenged him.

*  In 1999, the Wisconsin DNR on its own opened the diversion spigot from the City of Milwaukee - - an in-basin community - - to Menomonee Falls, an out-of-basin community in Waukesha County - - and, again, no other state challenged the move.

There is ample discussion of these lesser-known Pleasant Prairie and Menomonee Falls diversion.

*  In an opinion by the Wisconsin Attorney General.

*  On this blog - - here, and here:

For a year, I have posted items on this blog about a crucial document ignored by the state's traditional media - - a heavily annotated opinion about Great Lakes water diversion law written in 2006 by then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.
The opinion lays out what the law says Wisconsin officials can and cannot do, and should and should not do when reviewing or approving diversions of water out of the the Great Lakes basin.
You can read the opinion in full, here.
In a nutshell, the opinion says that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the State of Wisconsin cannot open the spigots and move water beyond the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin without the approval of the other Great Lakes states.
Yet that very thing has happened twice in Wisconsin: once in 1989 for Pleasant Prairie, and again in 1999 for Menomonee Falls, facilitated by Wisconsin state officials.
*  On the website of the Village of Pleasant Prairie.

*  In the Journal Sentinel as far back as 2003:

Water cannot be taken outside the Great Lakes basin without the approval of the eight Great Lakes states' governors, and as close as it is to the shoreline, about half of Pleasant Prairie actually is outside the basin. 
The governors had never approved a diversion from one of the Great Lakes, but most were willing to go along.... Michigan broke the logjam, sending a letter to Wisconsin officials saying it would not object to letting Pleasant Prairie turn on the Lake Michigan faucet
*  In a book by noted Great Lakes authority and author Dave Dempsey.

*  In a powerpoint by noted Great Lakes authority and author Peter Annin.

And Annin went out of his way the other day to note what I've been calling Wisconsin's outlier status on environmental and water issues.
“A lot of people are upset with the hubris with which Wisconsin has been dismissing environmental laws in order to grease the wheels for Foxconn,” said Annin, who incorporates the company’s bid for Lake Michigan water in an upcoming edition of his book. “The compact language does appear to provide an opportunity for opponents to trip things up. The fact that Walker is up for re-election this year makes the geopolitical dynamic here even more intriguing.”
Wisconsin will continue to do whatever it wants to do for whomever asks to move around Great Lakes water until the other states say enough is enough.

[Editor's note: headline word drop corrected 3/11.]

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