FLOW files amicus brief in Lake Michigan diversion suit

Mar 8, 2019

The Michigan-based water law non-profit “For Love of Water,” or "FLOW," filed an amicus brief this week in support of a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Last April, the WDNR approved the City of Racine's request to withdraw an annual average of 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day and send it to their customers in another community, Mount Pleasant.

Racine is within the Great Lakes basin, while Mount Pleasant straddles the edge. The Great Lakes compact, the agreement banning diversions of water outside the Great Lakes basin, allows exceptions for “straddling communities."

But several nonprofits (three based in Wisconsin, one from Minnesota, one regional, and one national) have filed suit against approval of the diversion.

Most of the water - 5.8 million gallons per day - will go to a plant owned by Taiwanese electronics corporation Foxconn.

The lawsuit argues that language in the Great Lakes compact means diversions should be mainly for residential use, and this diversion does not meet that standard.

In a press release, FLOW said Wisconsin's interpretation of the "straddling community" exception "far exceeds the intended narrow application".

Jim Olson, FLOW founder and president, said the approval uses flawed logic - it was granted on the grounds that most users of the water, by a simple count, would be residential, even though most of the water would be going to a corporation.

He said less strict interpretations of the compact hurt Michigan, which doesn't have any areas outside the Great Lakes Basin.

“Michigan is the loser," said Olson. "Michigan will not gain any businesses based on that and all the other states will.”

The Wisconsin DNR would not comment on the pending litigation. The press release from their approval of the the diversion last April said the following:

"As part of the diversion approval, the city of Racine must ensure that the diverted water is returned to Lake Michigan minus consumptive use such as evaporation. The water returned to Lake Michigan will be treated at the Racine Wastewater Treatment Plant to meet all applicable state and federal water quality discharge standards."