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Fight Continues Over Lake Michigan Water Diversion Plan

Gov. Scott Walker has repeatedly said Foxconn's water diversion plan wouldn't harm Lake Michigan. (JS Daniel/Twenty20)
Gov. Scott Walker has repeatedly said Foxconn's water diversion plan wouldn't harm Lake Michigan. (JS Daniel/Twenty20)
June 12, 2018

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The village of Mount Pleasant is preparing for a large influx of traffic, and even planning to hire more police officers this summer, as Foxconn Technology Group continues construction on a $10-billion electronics plant in the area.

But, an unresolved legal challenge hangs over the project. The groups that filed it say the Department of Natural Resources should not have approved a plan allowing the City of Racine to divert seven million gallons of water per day from the Great Lakes Basin, for Foxconn and surrounding tech facilities.

Jimmy Parra, staff attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, contends the plan violates a compact that was drafted ten years ago.

"And what that agreement says, in brief, is that Great Lakes water has to stay in the Great Lakes," he says. "So, it places a prohibition on diverting Great Lakes water outside of the basin."

The eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces signed the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River Compact in 2008. Foxconn makes liquid-crystal displays used in some flat-screen TVs and other electronics.

When complete, the facility could employ up to 13,000 workers. The City of Racine says the economic development is needed, and Foxconn says it will use "green and sustainable practices," including reducing water consumption.

The petition filed in May says the DNR's approval of the plan violates the compact since the water isn't intended for residential use but for commercial and industrial purposes. The plant site is in what's known as a "straddling community" - partially within the basin - which the DNR says makes it an exception to the compact rules.

But, Parra says the challengers' main goal is to honor the plan put in place to preserve the Great Lakes.

"So, we think we have an obligation to stand up for the Great Lakes Compact and to ensure that it's being applied in a way sticks with the intent of the drafters," he explains.

The challengers are Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI