Say no to Wisconsin’s pushy grab of Lake Michigan for Foxconn
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Chicago, and our neighboring communities all along the Great Lakes, benefit greatly from our geographical location right next to 20 percent of the earth’s fresh water. In order to protect that resource, and the millions of people who rely on it, the Great Lakes states entered into a compact to prohibit the diversion of water outside of the Great Lakes Basin — with exceptions for drinking water for communities that had no other option.
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This exception has been utilized in the past, with the state of Wisconsin requesting — and being granted — an exception to provide drinking water to the residents of Waukesha in 2016. Even this exception was controversial, proving even more the importance of keeping the Great Lakes Compact intact.
Now, Wisconsin seeks another exception. And this time, the reason is not for drinking water, but for commercial and industrial use. Governor Walker is hoping to use 5.8 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day to supply Foxconn’s manufacturing process.
Allowing such an exception sets a bad precedent and would weaken the compact. Illinois and our neighboring states should take a stand and object to this request. At the very least, we must pause to look at the potential regional impacts that would come with such a decision. Why not take this opportunity to look at other options — such as water reuse — to meet the demands of development and manufacturing? Rushing into an “end-around” solution of depleting more of our fresh water is not the answer, and will only cause other States to follow suit.
While the compact allows for exceptions, it is crucial to strictly follow the requirements and spirit of the compact when allowing such exceptions from the general prohibition on diversions. Less than 1% of Lake Michigan’s volume is replenished per year by rain.
As president of an agency whose mission is to protect our water environment, I know firsthand how important Lake Michigan is to our state. I urge other elected officials across the Great Lakes region demand that the process be carefully complied with and the request be fully vetted to protect our water supply.
Mariyana Spyropoulos, president, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
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