Freshwater Weekly — June 1, 2018

Posted on June 1, 2018 by

This week: Foxconn Diversion Challenged + Ontarians Disapprove of Water Extraction Permits + Flooding Study Moves Forward + 10 Ways to Prevent Invasive Species

Diversion of Lake Michigan Water for Foxconn Factory Challenged

The Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA)—representing Milwaukee Riverkeeper, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, River Alliance of Wisconsin, and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy—have filed a legal action to halt a Lake Michigan water diversion for the proposed Foxconn factory in Racine County, Wisconsin.  

According to MEA, the “Wisconsin [Department of Natural Resources] disregarded and unreasonably interpreted a core Compact requirement that all water transferred out of the Great Lakes Basin must be used for public water supply purposes, clearly defined as ‘serving a group of largely residential customers.’” As the diversion application was written, submitted, and approved, the City of Racine identified a total of 0 gallons to be used to supply residential customers. Of the total 7 million gallons/day, 5.8 will go directly to Foxconn’s main facility while the remaining 1.2 will supply surrounding industrial and commercial facilities.

Freshwater Future agrees with the argument set forth by MEA attorneys. We believe the Wisconsin DNR’s decision sets a dangerous precedent that could open up Great Lakes withdrawals to uses beyond the intent of the Great Lakes Compact, and we’ll continue to support challenges to the diversion.

New Poll Shows Ontario Voters Support Phasing Out Bottled Water Extraction Permits

A recent poll shows that 64% of eligible Ontario voters support phasing out bottled water extraction entirely within 10 years. 52% of those respondents support an even faster timeline of 2 years. The top listed concerns are excessive waste from plastic bottles, the treatment of water as a commodity, the negative environmental impact of water withdrawals, and the reinforcement of the perception that tap water is unsafe.

The current Ontario government instituted a moratorium of new extraction permits, for the stated purpose of better researching the combined effects of extraction, climate change, and population growth on groundwater supplies. It is unknown at this time if the moratorium will be extended.

U.S. Senators Push Lake Ontario, Lake Erie Flooding Study Forward

A key Senate committee last week approved a “must-pass” water resources bill that authorizes funding for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, which aims to examine infrastructure improvements that might be necessary to prevent flooding all through the Great Lakes basin. Senators from New York, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, committed to working with the Army Corps of Engineers to set aside the funding needed for completion.

The study is in response to the widespread coastal flooding that occured on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and to a lesser degree, Lake Erie last year. Hundreds of millions of dollars in damage occured in New York, Ontario, and Quebec. Provincial disaster relief and insurance claims are expected to tally up to more than half-a-billion dollars in Quebec alone.

Water levels in these waterways are influenced by a mixture of precipitation, tributary inflows, ice cover, snowmelt, and how much water is allowed to pass through the Moses-Saunders Dam in Massena, New York. Canada and the United States created the independently-run International Joint Commission (IJC) in part to control water flow from the dam. Many, especially in the United States, blame the IJC and a new set of rules called Plan 2014 for last year’s record flooding. But regulating water levels is a delicate balance: counteracting high water levels in one place can lead to flooding in others. Every centimeter of water released from Lake Ontario pushes the St. Lawrence River 10 centimeters higher, which means the interests of Canadians and Americans are often pitted against one another.

Proponents of the U.S. study hope it will provide a path forward to protecting against future flooding and high water levels, while allowing for the natural water-level variation necessary for healthy ecosystems.

10 Ways You Can Prevent Invasive Species

Summer weather has descended upon the Great Lakes and with it millions of residents and tourists—boats, kayaks, paddle boards, and swimsuits in tow. With all that movement comes an increased risk for spreading nuisance invasive species like Asian carp, eurasian milfoil, emerald ash borer, and non-native cattails. Check out our newest blog post on the best ways YOU can prevent the spread of invasive species this summer.

Ways to Make a Difference

There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.