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Wisc OK's Lake Mighigan Water Diversion09/19 06:15

   A decision by Wisconsin officials eight years ago to approve a big, new 
allotment of water from Lake Michigan to Pleasant Prairie is raising questions 
of transparency.

   MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A decision by Wisconsin officials eight years ago to 
approve a big, new allotment of water from Lake Michigan to Pleasant Prairie is 
raising questions of transparency.

   The 2010 decision gave the Kenosha County community on the Illinois border 
the right to tap millions of gallons of more water a day for years to come. The 
move by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was made in the final 
year of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's administration.

   Peter Annin, a journalist who directs the Mary Griggs Burke Center for 
Freshwater Innovation at Northland College in Ashland, highlights details of 
the decision in his updated book, "The Great Lakes Water Wars." The book will 
be re-released Oct. 3 to mark the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Great 
Lakes Compact, which bars water diversions outside the basin in most cases.

   Under the decision, the water will go to areas of the village outside the 
Lake Michigan basin. Those areas have struggled with radium and shrinking 
groundwater supplies.

   The DNR told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the agency was following 
Wisconsin law. Officials increased the upper limit of water available for 
Pleasant Prairie from 3.2 million gallons a day to 10.69 million gallons a day. 
All the water taken has to be returned to Lake Michigan.

   That additional 7.49 million gallons a day is nearly as much as the 8.2 
million gallons a day that Great Lakes Compact council members granted to the 
city of Waukesha in 2016.

   Pleasant Prairie is not using that water yet. Last year, its average daily 
diversion of Lake Michigan water was 2.49 million gallons a day, according to 
DNR figures.

   But the village's location at the edge of the Chicago metro area, and 20 
minutes from Foxconn Technology Group's industrial complex now under 
development in southeastern Wisconsin, gives Pleasant Prairie a strategic edge.

   "To me, it's a pretty significant marketing advantage --- an economic 
advantage for them," said David Strifling, director of Marquette University Law 
School's Water Law and Policy Initiative.

   Todd Ambs, the DNR water division administrator for much of the time the 
agency was working on the Pleasant Prairie case, said he was never told by 
staff that the village would be in line for a major increase in water from Lake 
Michigan.

   Ambs, now the director of Healing our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said he 
would have pressed for more openness.

   "I don't think it was envisioned that states would unilaterally increase 
water diversions by millions of gallons a day and not announce it publicly," 
Annin said.

   Molly Flanagan, vice president of policy for the Chicago-based Alliance for 
the Great Lakes, said attorneys for the organization are evaluating the 
Pleasant Prairie case for potential violations of the compact. 


(KA)

 
 
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