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Great Lakes Article:

Doyle weighs wider use of lake water
But diversion of Great Lakes to Western U.S. is unwise, he says

By Tom Held
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 27, 2004

Gov. Jim Doyle will consider allowing Lake Michigan water to be shipped beyond the Great Lakes basin to Waukesha County suburbs, but he stood firm Wednesday against any diversion of water from the Great Lakes to Western states.

"The key is replacement," Doyle said in a pre-Earth Day news conference outside the Milwaukee Art Museum. "When you take it to Phoenix or Vegas, it's hard to replace."

Groups that strive to protect the Great Lakes contend that diversion could allow too much water to be mined from the lakes, tapping them far beyond current demand.

Doyle will have considerable influence over rules on diversion of water from the Great Lakes as chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, a post he will assume in July. At that time, the council will be considering new rules covering limited use of water outside the Great Lakes basin.

Public hearings on the revisions are expected to be held this summer.

"This will be the best chance in generations for citizens around the Great Lakes basin to have some influence on how we use our water resources," said Cameron Davis, the executive director of the Great Lakes Federation.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, the current chairman of the council, said through a spokesman that the group is exploring "reasonable access" to water for municipalities that are just beyond the Great Lakes basin.

That would include Waukesha County, which sits just on the other side of the dividing line and has been struggling with a diminishing aquifer tainted with potentially hazardous amounts of radium.

Neither governor was willing to say definitively on Wednesday that he would support diversions of water to similarly situated communities, only that the rules would be reviewed.

"We don't want to create a system that allows large-scale diversion of water outside the basin," said Taft's spokesman, Orest Holubec.

Diversion of water from Lake Michigan and its four sister lakes has been governed by the Great Lakes Charter of 1985 and the Water Resources Development Act. Those rules gave each of the eight governors on the council veto authority over any diversion of water outside the Great Lakes basin.

To date, the governors have allowed Akron, Ohio, and Pleasant Prairie, Wis., to draw water outside the Great Lakes basin.

Davis said changes being proposed will be an improvement over the current regulations.

"There really aren't any rules right now," Davis said. "Any one of the eight governors can say no for any reason.

"That's not good decision-making. It's not due process."

One of the provisions expected to be included in the new rules would require that municipalities drawing water from the Great Lakes return cleaned wastewater to limit any drawdown of the fresh water supply. Doyle said it was too early to put a figure on that replacement, whether it be gallon-for-gallon or some lower ratio.

Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi and water utility general manager Dan Duchniak were in Washington, D.C., Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. Duchniak has said that a replacement requirement would preclude the city from using Lake Michigan water because pumping the treated wastewater back to Milwaukee would be too costly.

Davis said that water now flows from Lake Michigan to Waukesha County through underground aquifers. A process for returning some of that water back to the Lake Michigan basin, if done correctly, would be an improvement, he said.

Doyle said he planned to use his position as council chairman to protect the Great Lakes from being tapped to solve water problems in other states, and to battle invasive species, including the sea lamprey and the zebra mussel. Doyle said he planned to work with federal authorities to stop oceangoing vessels from spreading invasive species by discharging ballast water in the Great Lakes.


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