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Conservation Groups Oppose Foxconn Water Plan

The Great Lakes hold 90 percent of America's fresh water, and Wisconsin conservation groups oppose a plan to allow diversion of Lake Michigan water for a private manufacturer. (EPA)
The Great Lakes hold 90 percent of America's fresh water, and Wisconsin conservation groups oppose a plan to allow diversion of Lake Michigan water for a private manufacturer. (EPA)
February 26, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – As part of the deal being proposed for Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn to build a large plant in southeast Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is proposing that the city of Racine be allowed to divert 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day.

The water would be used in the manufacture of high-tech electronic screens.

Conservation groups oppose the plan, saying it's just the latest move to undercut the state's environmental laws.

"I think it's important that people understand the impact that Foxconn is going to have on the state,” says Ryan Billingham, communications director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. “It's not just this particular thing, it's an accumulation of damage – not just giving away Great Lakes water, but really trying to break apart and degrade the very spirit of the Great Lakes Compact."

The compact is a multi-state bipartisan agreement regarding the use of water from Lake Michigan.

Walker and Republicans say much of the water, which is the equivalent of 875 tanker trucks per day, will be returned to the lake after treatment, and that the Foxconn plant will be a huge boost to the state's economy.

The Great Lakes hold 90 percent of America's fresh water, and Billingham says the diversion of this much water from Lake Michigan for private industry use is unprecedented.

"Under the Great Lakes Compact of 2008, really, diversions should be used as a last resort,” he states. “That's sort of the practice for things like recharging ground water for families' wells and municipal water systems."

The city of Milwaukee taps about 97 million gallons of water each day from Lake Michigan, for both residential and business use.

The Department of Natural Resources is taking public comments on the plan through March 21.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI