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Governors to vote on first diversion of Great Lakes water

The vote on whether to allow a Wisconsin city outside of the Great Lakes basin to withdraw water from Lake Michigan is expected to come Tuesday in Chicago.

A unanimous vote of the governors of eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces is required to allow Waukesha, Wisc., to divert the water.

The measure is the first test of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, an international agreement designed to conserve water in the Great Lakes basin.

Waukesha’s application, which is allowed because the city is located in a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin, has come under scrutiny from numerous civic and environmental organizations as well as a local delegation of New York State Assembly members.

Last week, in Niagara Falls, the mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative reiterated their opposition to Waukesha’s application.

The organization said the application is faulty because the proposed service area for Lake Michigan water would extend beyond Waukesha’s city limit, the city has “reasonable alternatives” to diverting Great Lakes water, risks to nearby Racine from wastewater returns aren’t fully considered and there were deficiencies in the application’s review process.

In April, a dozen other organizations statewide – including Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Foundation and the Citizens Campaign for the Environment – urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to reject Waukesha’s application.