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Agreement Reached on Out-of-Basin Diversion of Great Lakes Water

Posted on August 4, 2017

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) have made a final decision on the grant of permission to Waukesha, Wisconsin, for a diversion of water from the Great Lakes.

On Wednesday, the Compact Council and the Cities Initiative announced that they have settled a challenge to the Waukesha Diversion Approval with an agreement to collaborate on improving the review of water diversion applications in the future. The agreement between the Cities Initiative and the Compact Council calls for a rigorous review of the Compact Council and Regional Body’s process for considering diversions, with extensive stakeholder involvement in determining formal rules and revised guidelines for the future.

“Our challenge has always been about improving the Compact to ensure the protection of our water resources,” said Paul Dyster, Mayor of Niagara Falls, New York, and chair of the Cities Initiative. “We want to make sure future applications for diversion are subject to robust and detailed standards of evaluation and a thorough process allowing input from impacted stakeholders.”

The final decision for the diversion is subject to ten provisions on Waukesha that include:

  • The diversion must operate in keeping with the Compact’s principles.
  • Limits to the amount of water extracted, where it’s extracted from, and to where the water is supplied.
  • Adherence to a water conservation and energy efficiency plan.
  • Controls on groundwater withdrawals.
  • Best practices to prevent pharmaceutical and personal care products from entering the water stream.
  • Annual reporting.
  • Performance audits.

Sandra Cooper, Mayor of the Town of Collingwood, Ontario and vice chair of the Cities Initiative said, “As a binational organization, we are proud to be working with the Compact Council, Regional Body, and other stakeholders in the U.S. and Canada to improve the process for future water diversion applications.”

The agreement between the Compact and the Initiative includes review of many aspects of the process for evaluating applications for diversion. Provisions include the public engagement process, development of the record to support any decisions made by the Compact Council and Regional Body, public hearings in Canada and the United States, consideration of new information that becomes available during the process, changes in the application while under consideration, and more.

“This agreement will help protect the long term integrity of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River for future generations,” said Régis Labeaume, president of the Québec Metropolitan Community and secretary of the Cities Initiative. “As governors and mayors, we must be held accountable and work together for the protection of our region’s most cherished resource.”

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