Minnesota DNR to host listening session about Lake Michigan water diversion proposal

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will host an open house and listening session about a Waukesha, Wisconsin, proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan. The proposed diversion would be done to address declining groundwater levels and water quality concerns. 

The session will be held Thursday, March 3, at the Duluth Holiday Inn and Suites Downtown, located at 200 W. First St. Input gathered will help the state formulate its position on the proposed project.

The city of Waukesha is seeking an exception from the prohibition on diversions of Great Lakes water outside the water basin. Minnesota is a signatory to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, which governs Great Lakes water use among the eight Great Lakes states.

The city of Waukesha is asking to divert an annual average of 10.1 million gallons per day from Lake Michigan. Most of this water would be returned to the basin following treatment. Waukesha now relies on a well system, and is proposing to shift to water from Lake Michigan. The area’s groundwater is high in naturally occurring radium.

Staff from the Minnesota DNR and other state agencies are currently reviewing specific parts of the technical review document and the project application as it pertains to their areas of expertise.

The March 3 DNR listening session in Duluth will include an open house from 5 to 6 p.m., with the opportunity to review related documents and talk with DNR staff. At 6 p.m., there will be a brief presentation describing the project, followed by a two-hour listening session. During the listening session, attendees will have an opportunity to share their perspectives on the proposal.

The DNR is hosting the listening session to provide information and hear public perspectives. However, this session is not part of the formal public engagement process under the terms of the Great Lakes Compact. The Compact Council is holding its public hearing on the proposal Thursday, Feb. 18, in Waukesha.

Those who wish to review information and submit public comments on the application can do so through March 14 on the Compact Council’s Waukesha Diversion page. Comments must be submitted to the Compact Council to be part of the official record on which the Council will ultimately be basing its decision on the Waukesha proposal.