The cascade of ill-advised and boldly bogus Great Lakes diversion plans by Wisconsin communities is getting stronger, and this bulldozing trend needs replacement by a more credible level of scrutiny and enforcement if the state is going to be a trustworthy Great Lakes regional resource partner.
I'd noted a couple of months ago the regrettably unsurprising news that the Village of Somers in Kenosha County had become just latest Wisconsin community to seek a diversion of water from Lake Michigan.
I say 'unsurprising' given the way various Wisconsin state officials and localities continue to treat the Great Lakes' finite water volume and its purportedly-controlling water management compact of 2008 as more of a proprietary Badger state open faucet than a last-ditch source and solution to public health or water supply emergencies, with the Foxconn diversion being the most ill-advised and egregiously bogus.
A document filed by the Village with the Department of Natural Resources in support of a diversion application makes clear the diverted water will serve existing customers and anticipated commercial, residential and industrial users as the Village expands through annexations into land that is "primarily commercial and farmland" to reach "full buildout."
So, this is basically a sprawl-enabling plan. Which the Compact was not intended to fuel because if one jurisdiction is allowed to use diverted water for economic advantage, others will follow.
Again, see the Foxconn diversion/debacle, as litigants noted and warned after a state judge waived it though :
From the beginning, this case was about ensuring that diversions of Great Lakes water meet the letter and spirit of the Compact. The unfortunate outcome of this case underscores both the importance of monitoring the implementation of existing diversions and the need to prepare for future diversion requests.
But it turns out that Wisconsin's now routinized contempt water conservation has produced an actual new fact that underscores just how lightly and carelessly some officials here are treating the Compact, its water conservation goal and normal process transparency:
Somers officials have already spent millions of public dollars to complete 40% of the proposed diversion's construction without legal authorization from Wisconsin officials.
State regulators have ordered the Village of Somers in Kenosha County to halt construction on its project to draw water from Lake Michigan. The village began work before receiving all the necessary approvals to move forward.
Somers wants to divert an average of 1.2 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan as the village is seeing new development. The Public Service Commission launched an investigation Thursday after regulators discovered construction was underway on a water transfer station and about 5 miles of pipe that would bring water outside the Great Lakes basin.
Midwest Environmental Advocates, a nonprofit law center, wants to ensure any proposal to divert Great Lakes water is subject to the highest scrutiny, according to staff attorney Rob Lee....
This is the first time unauthorized work has occurred on a project that must meet requirements under the Great Lakes Compact, according to a PSC spokesperson....The DNR plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed water diversion once the agency has obtained all necessary information as part of its review.
We've got say more than 'oops' here.
The diversion application should be rejected, the relevant agencies must explain publicly how they managed to overlook the work until it was 40% done, and people who failed to do their jobs or, worse, looked the other way should be held accountable.
And props to Midwest Environmental Advocates for doing watchdog duty which relevant state and local officials had abandoned.