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DEQ will hold public meetings tomorrow on a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan

Feb 8, 2016

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding public meetings on Tuesday about a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply. Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

The city wants to divert 10.1 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan in the beginning, and up to 16.7 million gallons a day by 2050.

Then the city would treat the water and return it to the lake.

Michigan’s review process

Jon Allan, Director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes, says Michiganders can weigh in during the public meetings in Lansing on Tuesday or submit comments online by March 1st.

“It’s important to us that we’re reaching out to the citizens of Michigan, because this is an issue that we know that's important to them,” Allan says.

He says the state will also consult with tribal governments before making a decision.

The Great Lakes Compact

All eight Great Lakes governors have to approve the proposal.

"If any one governor says no, then the proposal stops." — Jon Allan, Director of Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes

That’s because of the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement between all eight Great Lakes states. The compact describes how the states collectively manage and protect the Great Lakes basin.

Part of that compact bans new water diversions. Only counties and communities that straddle the basin line are allowed to ask for an exception. To be granted one, a community must prove its proposal meets defined standards. That's what Waukesha is hoping to do now.

“If any one governor says no, then the proposal stops,” Allan says. “But there’s also the opportunity for a yes, but with conditions, so it's not just a yes or no, it could be a yes with conditions.”

Other Great Lakes states are also asking residents to weigh in on Waukesha’s proposal. 

  • The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is holding its own public comment period on the agency’s website.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says it also intends to hold a public comment period for residents.
  • The New York Department of Environmental Conservation says it will meet with stakeholders to gather input.
  • The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the state will hold a listening session for residents to voice their opinions.
  • The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says it is asking residents to comment through the comment system set up by the Compact Council.

Residents of all Great Lakes states are invited to submit comments to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body and the Compact Council through this comment portal by March 14th.

A public hearing will also be held, open to all Great Lakes states, on February 18th in Waukesha.

Officials say their agencies will conduct a thorough review of Waukesha's application. They say they'll take residents' comments into consideration,  and then submit recommendations to their governors on how to vote.

Information on Michigan's public hearings

Michigan's public meetings will be held tomorrow (Tuesday, February 9th) at Lansing Community College West Campus in rooms M119-M122.

The first will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The second will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Lansing Community College West Campus

5708 Cornerstone Dr.

Lansing, Michigan 48917

Rooms M199-M122

You can watch a live stream of the meetings here