COMMENTARY: Input sought on plan affecting
By James Rowen
The Capital Times
Published November 21, 2006
Scott Hassett, secretary of Wisconsin's Department of
Natural Resources, labeled the city of New Berlin's spring
2006 application for a diversion of Great Lakes water
"complete and comprehensive" when he sent it
for a preliminary review to the other seven Great Lakes
states and two Canadian Great Lakes provinces.
The early reviews from those jurisdictions are arriving
at the DNR, suggesting that the New Berlin application
is not complete and comprehensive, according to documents
released under the state open records law.
Proposals to divert water out of the Great Lakes basin
must win the unanimous approval of all Great Lakes states,
according to U.S. law and a Canada-U.S. compact. New Berlin's
diversion plan would supply water to that part of the
fast-growing city that is beyond the Great Lakes basin's
subcontinental divide and would return it to Lake Michigan.
The summaries of comments received so far indicate the
New York: On Aug. 15, New York officials said the application
was without key studies, complete data, adequate water
supply descriptions, enough system and geological maps
and "descriptions of the situation and feasible options."
New York opined that there was "no evidence that
the applicant is aware of or familiar with the full range
of applicable state and national regulations, laws, agreements
or treaties" and cited other deficiencies or possible
inaccuracies. Additionally, New York observed that "the
statement of no cumulative impacts is unsupported by any
data in the document and does not address potential cumulative
impacts to Lake Michigan water levels, shoreline, other
users, water-dependent natural resources, etc."
Illinois: On July 14, Illinois officials suggested the
application could be strengthened with data of "forecasts
of future water use, both inside and outside the Great
Lakes basin." Illinois also suggested that New Berlin
extend its sprinkling ban, evaluate the effectiveness
of its conservation planning, and expand its search for
well-water alternatives to its proposed Lake Michigan
diversion that could eliminate the need for a diversion.
Michigan: On Sept. 25, the state of Michigan said it
would not begin a formal review until a full-scale diversion
application was received. On Oct. 31, its attorney general
said that without a formal application meeting federal
standards provided by the U.S. Water Resources Development
Act, New Berlin could not proceed.
Province of Ontario: Canadian provinces in the Great
Lakes basin have an advisory role - but not a veto - when
Great Lakes states want to divert water outside of the
basin. On Oct. 5, David Ramsey, the minister of the Ontario
Provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, welcomed the
application's pledge to return diverted water to the lake,
but also added these criticisms:
"It does not appear that the city has developed
or implemented a conservation plan" or similar plans
for the conservation of the additional, diverted water.
"Individual and cumulative environmental impact
assessments do not appear to have been undertaken"
regarding the benefits of using and returning Lake Michigan
Though New Berlin said its request was for reasonable
quantities of Great Lakes water, Ontario noted that industry
standards and other usage data were not defined or included.
"We are unable to assess if your request is reasonable,"
Ontario officials said.
Federal regulations require New Berlin to upgrade the
quality of its drinking water by Dec. 8; the DNR has given
the city until the spring of 2007 to get into compliance
with a permanent solution. The DNR is sponsoring a public
comment period on the New Berlin application through Nov.
26. Comments can be sent to: email@example.com.
The DNR has said it will use those comments and the reviews
of the other Great Lakes jurisdictions as state officials
evaluate the New Berlin application.