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Watchdog Groups Keeping an Eye on the Lakes

The first application to divert water from Lake Michigan has been approved. (
The first application to divert water from Lake Michigan has been approved. (
July 18, 2016

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – The first application to divert water from Lake Michigan has been approved, and a watchdog group in Indiana is praising the hard work that went into it, but says it will keep an eye on things to make sure all the rules are followed.

The Great Lakes Regional Body and the state of Wisconsin gave the green light last month to the city of Waukesha to divert 8.2 million gallons of water per day.

The city's deep wells are contaminated by naturally occurring radium.

Cathy Martin, program manager for the environmental group Save the Dunes, says every drop taken out will have to be treated and returned to the lake.

"There will always be concern that more and more applications will really start to look as a threat to the Great Lakes,” she states. “But under the compact, luckily any diversion will have to return all this water. The concern will just be are they doing it right?"

As part of the Great Lakes Compact, which was approved in 2008, cities located on the lakes can apply to divert water, and Waukesha was the first to apply for a permit.

Martin says Waukesha's application could be the first of many to come, but she says it's not cheap.

"It is a hope that other communities that don't need water but just want a diversion would look at this process and say, 'Oh my gosh, we don't have 60 years and millions of dollars to spend on water we don't need,'” she relates. “But of course you never know."

Some environmental groups are unhappy with the plan.

Clean Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates and a few others say the city's diversion proposal should have been rejected by the regional representatives rather than modified with conditions, and they are worried about the impact the treated water will have on the Root River, which will carry it back to Lake Michigan.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN