Appeals Court Affirms Permit Denial for Controversial Lake Superior Water Bottling Proposal

Lake Superior Legal Victory Post

Madison, WI—Today, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that prevents a Bayfield company from bottling and selling water from a private artesian well located within the Lake Superior watershed.

The decision is the latest development in a legal battle stemming from a proposal by start-up company Kristle KLR to harvest and transport water from an artesian well near Lake Superior for eventual bottling and sale. According to the proposal, water would have been stored in large underground tanks before being transported in tanker trucks to an off-site bottling facility in Superior, Wisconsin. From there, it would have been packaged and sold in the Twin Cities area and eventually around the country.

In April 2021, the Bayfield County Planning and Zoning Commission denied Kristle KLR’s application for a conditional use permit to operate a water pumping facility in Clover Township. Since then, Kristle KLR has unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Bayfield County Board of Adjustment, the Bayfield County Circuit Court, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

In December 2022, Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) filed an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals on behalf of grassroots group Lake Superior Not for Sale. Lake Superior Not for Sale was formed in opposition to extractive industries and water commercialization schemes in the Lake Superior Basin. 

MEA Staff Attorney Rob Lee said, “Lake Superior is one of our greatest environmental, cultural, and economic treasures. Midwest Environmental Advocates has been honored to work with Lake Superior Not for Sale and the rest of the community to prevent the exploitation of this valuable resource.”

“Since Kristle KLR first applied for a conditional use permit in early 2021, thousands of people have joined Lake Superior Not for Sale. Together we unite to be the voice for the water—to oppose treating water as a commodity to be exploited,” said Patty Carpenter of Lake Superior Not for Sale. 

In 2021, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa also declared its opposition to the project, which would have been located on land where the Band holds treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather. In a resolution passed by the Red Cliff Tribal Council, the Band declared that water extraction schemes like the one proposed by Kristle KLR threaten Tribal treaty rights and represent an existential threat to the Band’s culture and lifestyle.

Jen Boulley of Lake Superior Not for Sale said, “We are greatly satisfied with the decision to affirm the Bayfield County Circuit Court ruling. We stand in solidarity with all who protect the water but mostly with water herself. Water is fiercely persistent and everything will bend to her will if we force her hand. Miigwech to all those who love and protect the water. Giinawind izichige nibi onji – We do it for the water!” 

Learn more about this case here.

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