Monday, March 8, 2021

Another SE WI community seeks Lake Michigan diversion

I've noted frequently on this blog over more than a decade the propensity of Wisconsin communities to seek and be granted diversions of Lake Michigan water 

Lake Michigan

outside of the Great Lakes basin boundaries.

Those approvals followed the adoption of a hard-fought 2008 Great Lakes water management Compact that was supposed to promote best practices, including conservation and diversion limitations:

Foxconn diversion would be #5 for 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 suggests one diversion can lead to 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. we go again, as the Village of Somers in Kenosha County is seeking to divert up to 1.2 million gallons of Lake Michigan water daily - here is the DNR's webpage on the matter - to serve a portion of the Village, including anticipated growth into undeveloped rural acreage. 

Because portions of the Village already lie within the Great Lakes boundary, the diversion request review under the rules of the Compact falls only to the Wisconsin DNR and not to more complex, multi-state examination similar to the one to which City of Waukesha was requited to submit because its municipal boundaries were completely beyond the Great Lakes basin.

All of which means the Somers' request will likely win a relatively quick OK through this lesser review process from the WI DNR; that's how the DNR health with similar diversion approvals for New Berlin and Racine.

Documentation in the Village's diversion plan states that its principle current land use is agriculture, its population is 8,371 and "at full [2050] buildout, the estimated population of the entire Village is 49,800."

And using the diverted water at full buildout is the project's goal, as the Village diversion application makes clear:

The requested diversion amount is sufficient to serve the current population and the projected ultimate buildout population. This water diversion is based on population projections rather than current development, and represents the culmination of a 10 year effort to expand municipal water service throughout the Village.

And here is the Village's description on page 10 of the Village acreages, and where the water will be going:

3.4 Proposed Area to be Served by Diverted Water

The area proposed for service with diverted water is identified on the map in Figure 6. This area is currently primarily farmland and commercial area, however it is expected to become a combination of industrial, residential and commercial uses in the future. 

The entire Village is approximately 12,400 acres in size and the diversion area comprises 2,300 acres of the total.

My understanding of the Compact was that Great Lakes diversions were meant to be solutions-of-last resort to public health and welfare problems and not to enable development, let alone sprawl, because that would undermine water conservation.

And give one community in one state economic advantages using finite water resources which are shared and managed regionally among eight states and two Canadian provinces.

In this case, I see an application for Lake Michigan water based more to serve anticipated growth and convenience, and less to address documented, compelling public needs and water supply issues.

7.1 Environmental and Economic Impacts

The SEWRPC 2010 Regional Water Supply Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin recommends the Village continue receiving water from the [Kenosha Water Utility] KWU. The only alternative supply source to this area are shallow and deep aquifers, which had been used by the Village in the past. However, these aquifers were deemed unreliable in the long-term due to declining water levels and significant treatment costs.

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