Legal action

Monitoring the Implementation of the Great Lakes Compact in Racine

In 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approved a request by the City of Racine to divert millions of gallons of water a day from Lake Michigan to serve the proposed Foxconn industrial complex. Midwest Environmental Advocates challenged the approval as part of our work to ensure that diversions of Great Lakes water meet the letter and spirit of the Great Lakes Compact.

In monitoring the implementation of the Great Lakes Compact, MEA challenged the diverting of water to a proposed Foxconn complex.

Case Summary

In 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved the City of Racine’s request to transfer 7 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan to an area outside the Great Lakes Basin. The majority of the water would be used to supply Foxconn Technology Group, while the remainder was slated to supply industrial and commercial facilities surrounding the Foxconn development.  

MEA challenged the diversion on behalf of League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, River Alliance of Wisconsin, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, League of Women Voters – Lake Michigan Region, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

MEA attorneys argued that DNR’s approval of the Racine diversion unreasonably interpreted a core requirement of that Great Lakes Compact. That requirements stipulates that all water transferred out of the Great Lakes Basin must be used for public water supply purposes. 

The Great Lakes Compact is a historic agreement entered into by the eight Great Lakes states and enacted into federal law. A centerpiece of the Compact is its ban on diversions, reflecting the region’s determination to prohibit the transfer of Great Lakes water outside the basin unless a diversion request can meet narrowly defined exceptions.

Unfortunately, an administrative law judge issued a June 2019 decision siding with the DNR and affirming the agency’s approval of the diversion request. While MEA and our clients chose not to appeal the ruling, we remain committed to monitoring the implementation of existing diversions and preparing for future diversion request.

Jennifer Bolger Breceda

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

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