As the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Wednesday announced it would not pursue a lawsuit to stop the City of Waukesha from drawing drinking water from Lake Michigan, other Great Lakes challenges are on the horizon.
The consortium of Great Lakes mayors – representing the U.S. and Canada - believes a balance must to struck to create thriving communities while protecting the Great Lakes.
John Dickert, president of the group, points out that while Waukesha is the first city to apply for a Great Lakes diversion, more than 100 other communities could be waiting in the wings.
He says it will become increasingly important for watchdogs to protect the Great Lakes. The Taiwanese company Foxconn is top of Dickert's mind.
Last week Gov. Walker unveiled legislation to curb environmental regulations in order to ease Foxconn's entry into southeastern Wisconsin. The manufacturer wants to build a huge factory that would make LCD screens, and would require large quantities of water for the process.
“We’re going to see more and more of this coming to the Midwest. The Midwest is going to be where industries are coming back, especially high water-intense users. So to us it’s incredibly important that we stand firm and tall on diversions and how water is used in the Great Lakes because it’s a very fragile resource." Dickert adds, “The Great Lakes only replenish at one percent per year.”
Republican lawmakers who back the Foxconn bill argue that it's possible to both attract development and protect the environment.
GOP state Rep. Jim Steineke stands by the legislation. “Obviously that’s something we’re going to be cognizant of as the process goes forward. Everybody wants to have clean air and water and keep those things protected.” Steineke adds, “But I think there’s a way to do that without dramatically change the way the bill as it is.”
This afternoon both supporters and opponents of the Foxconn bill and its environmental measures will have the opportunity to share their views. The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy is holding a public hearing in Madison.
In the meantime, the City of Waukesha is focusing pushing forward with its diversion project.
“We’re still proceeding with permitting, designing, negotiations and everything else….we fully intend is construction will be done by 2023,” Waukesha mayor Shawn Reilly says.