WBEZ | Great Lakes Compact http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes-compact Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Contributor content: Does Illinois catch a break? http://www.wbez.org/content/contributor-content-does-illinois-catch-break <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Chicago River.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><em>Editors note: This story first appeared in <a href="http://greatlakesecho.org">Great Lakes Echo</a>, a project of Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism</em></strong></p><p>Wisconsin and New York water users <a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2011/06/17/new-york-approves-great-lakes-water-rules-wisconsin-up-next/">are crafting</a> water permitting rules. Lawmakers are <a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2011/05/25/ohios-proposed-water-withdrawal-limits-worries-other-great-lakes-states/" target="_blank"><strong>begging for less</strong></a><strong><a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2011/05/25/ohios-proposed-water-withdrawal-limits-worries-other-great-lakes-states/" target="_blank"> restrictive limits </a></strong>in Ohio.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-29/ChicagoRiver.jpg" style="width: 225px; height: 300px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="The Chicago River used to flow into Lake Michigan at the intersection above. Now the river flows through a canal to the Mississippi River. This diversion is off the Great Lakes hook. Photo: dcwriterdawn (Flickr)">And Illinois? Well, in some ways it seems like that state is off the Great Lakes hook.</p><p>It has an exemption from parts of the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement between Great Lakes states to put limits on large-scale withdrawals and diversions of regional waters.</p><p>Here’s why: Illinois answers to a higher power —&nbsp;a series of Supreme Court decisions allowing the state to divert large quantities of Lake Michigan water. But the state still faces some hefty water restrictions.</p><p>In the early 1880s, Chicago ran into a sanitary snafu when its drinking water source became its sewage repository. The city reversed the flow of Chicago River and sent its sewage, along with some of Lake Michigan, south through a canal connected to the Mississippi River.</p><p>Surrounding states were not pleased —&nbsp;especially Missouri, which was getting the full brunt of Chicago’s foul assault. In the early 1920s, Wisconsin —&nbsp;later joined by Michigan and New York — sued, claiming that Chicago’s diversion lowered Lake Michigan by 6 inches.</p><div class="wp-caption alignleft" id="attachment_37961" style="width: 230px;"><br> <img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-29/Diversion_of_Chicago_Waterways.gif" style="width: 220px; height: 554px; float: left;" title="Flow of Chicago waterways before and after construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Maps: USGS"></div><p>In 1967, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that the diversion was necessary, but capped it at 3,200 cubic feet per second per day—&nbsp;its current level.</p><p>(More <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;source=web&amp;cd=4&amp;ved=0CCwQFjAD&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.greatlakeslaw.org%2Ffiles%2FHall_Great_Lakes_Compact_Senate_Testimony.pdf&amp;rct=j&amp;q=great%20lakes%20compact%20environ%20law%20and%20poliy&amp;ei=zhIBTvp2qfDSAbGOwbEO&amp;usg=AFQjCNFlZlNYnQo94u15gMRKkejfuYZl5g&amp;sig2=u2tiSIcbm7Ovure34ESozw&amp;cad=rja" target="_blank"><strong>details</strong></a> provided by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.)</p><p>Fast forward to 2008, when Great Lakes state governors agreed to prevent large-scale Great Lakes diversions and employ conservation measures.</p><p>Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation consenting to the compact with a couple of big catches: Illinois would not be subject to any part dealing with new or increased water withdrawals.</p><p>That’s arguably one of the most important compact provisions.</p><p>But Illinois can divert up to 3,200 cubic feet per second — or 2.1 billion gallons per day — of Lake Michigan water because of the 1967 Supreme Court decision.</p><p>Unlike other states, Illinois can’t request additional water diversions under the compact, said Dan Injerd, chief of Lake Michigan management at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.</p><p>“We can’t get two bites at the apple, just the one we’ve had all along,” he said.</p><p>Like the other states Illinois has to develop and implement water conservation and efficiency programs and establish a water use baseline.</p><p>The state’s Lake Michigan Water Allocation program, governed by a special state authority and specific rules, plays a large part in that effort.</p><p>“Yes, we’re exempt,” Injerd said. “But things like sharing water use information, having conservation and efficiency programs and all the cooperative things … we are obligated to do under the compact.”</p><p>Illinois is not required to establish a water use permitting system under the compact —&nbsp;<a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2011/06/17/new-york-approves-great-lakes-water-rules-wisconsin-up-next/" target="_blank"><strong>which other states currently are doing</strong> </a>—&nbsp;but it already has one in place.</p><p>The state established the program after the 1967 Supreme Court decree. It permits water users who have gone through a long process involving public participation and monitoring of water consumption. That’s not unlike what the other states are setting up under the compact.</p><p>Is Illinois better off?</p><p>It may seem like it has more freedom to use Great Lakes waters than other states because of its exemption; they’re actually more restricted.</p><p>Bordering states are parties to the Supreme Court case and can request to reopen the case if Illinois isn’t keeping its end of the deal, Injerd said.</p><p>“What we do, how much water we divert, is always subject to review and analysis,” he said.</p><p>And most other Great Lakes states, with the exception of Minnesota and Pennsylvania, use much more lake water than Illinois, according to 2006 figures from the <a href="http://www.glc.org/wateruse/database/" target="_blank"><strong>Great Lakes Regional Water Use Database repository. </strong></a></p><div class="wp-caption alignright" id="attachment_18842" style="width: 310px;"><a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Picture-111.png" rel="lightbox" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-29/map.png" style="width: 300px; height: 237px; float: left;" title="The 2008 Great Lakes Compact puts limits on water withdrawals outside of the watershed. Illinois has the least amount of Great Lakes watershed, but it’s exempt from compact provisions dealing with diversions. Map: GLIN"></a></div><p>By law, Illinois is capped at 2.1 billion gallons per day. In 2006, it tapped 1.98 billion gallons of Lake Michigan per day. Other Great Lakes states and provinces don’t have limits, and they used a combined 234.9 billon gallons of Great Lakes surface water per day, according to the database.<strong> </strong></p><p>In theory, Illinois could use more Great Lakes water if it were subject to the compact instead of the court decision, but since it has the least amount of watershed in the region, some of its straddling communities would have to apply for Lake Michigan water diversion exemptions. Others would have to find water elsewhere.</p><p>“Clearly we have substantial water use that occurs out of the original drainage basin in Illinois,” Injerd said.</p><p>The way it is now, all Lake Michigan water users must apply for permits, but it’s nothing like the lengthy exemption process —&nbsp;just ask <a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2010/12/10/waukesha-water-war-key-for-great-lakes-diversion-policy/" target="_blank"><strong>Waukesha, Wis.</strong></a></p><p>In other Great Lakes states, there are no annual limits and new permitting procedures require only high-quantity users to seek state approval.</p><p>All Great Lakes states, including Illinois, are limited in regards to diversions. The compact curbs water diversions out of the watershed; bordering communities can apply for exceptions. Illinois state law prevents diversions out of the state.</p><p>The Great Lakes Compact certainly lets Illinois — or should I say Chicago — off the hook when it comes to water diversions. But since other states own more of the Great Lakes watershed and can access more water, they may have a sweeter deal.</p></p> Fri, 05 Aug 2011 12:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/contributor-content-does-illinois-catch-break Waukesha's request for Great Lakes water is complex first test of law http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/waukeshas-request-great-lakes-water-complex-first-test-law-88160 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-21/waukesha 018.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A law that’s designed to prevent other parts of the country and the world from draining the Great Lakes is getting its first big test in our own backyard.</p><p>The water-use compact is part of an agreement between eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces to figure out who can have Great Lakes water. It prohibits diversions, though it makes a few exceptions, including for communities that straddle the Great Lakes basin or for those that are in counties on that line.</p><p>One of those communities, a suburb of Milwaukee called Waukesha, is asking for Great Lakes water because it has too much radium in its water supply.</p><p>Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said the city’s had five well failures in the last year. The aquifer it depends on is getting lower.</p><p>“That water is getting older and older and older, and so the radium concentration levels get higher and higher,” Duchniak said. “As you draw down deeper and deeper in the aquifers, you get to a point where it’s brackish water or higher levels of salt. And so what you’re going to have to do then is remove the salt out of the water because people do not want to have water to have a high salt concentration. It’s not aesthetically pleasing and it’s not good to use.”</p><table style="width: 290px;" align="left" border="0" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="10"><tbody><tr><td><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-21/waterspromo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title=""></a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/about-front-and-center-%E2%80%93-depth-reporting-great-lakes-87655">About Front and Center – in-depth reporting from the Great Lakes</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/great-lakes-face-increasing-pressure-water-world-own-backyard-88093">Great Lakes face increasing pressure for water from world, own backyard</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/how-likely-fear-west-could-steal-great-lakes-water-88134">How likely is the fear the West could steal Great Lakes water? </a></strong></p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Duchniak said the city is looking to lake water because there are no other good alternatives.&nbsp; He said other water sources aren’t as reliable long-term or would cause more harm to the environment.</p><p>Local environmentalists aren’t convinced.</p><p>Cheryl Nenn, the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, is worried about the impact on Underwood Creek, where Waukesha would return its treated wastewater, as required by the compact. The creek empties into Menominee River, then into the Milwaukee River and finally into Lake Michigan.</p><p>This river already has flooding issues.</p><p>"It can rise by 5 to 6 feet within 15 to 30 minutes,” Nenn said. “It can be pretty scary to be out there right at the beginning of a rain event. It’s pretty dramatic how fast the creek can change.”</p><p>Nenn said the discharge from Waukesha would increase that flooding dramatically. The city proposes to divert its water during the worst storms and make up for the lost water by bringing in water from another system later.&nbsp; Nenn said blending water like that appears to violate the compact and ups the risk of introducing invasive species or disease.</p><p>“We’re certainly worried about any impacts to water quantity that cause a flooding issues for folks downstream, but (we’re) also looking at impacts to water quality not only for fish and critters that live in the stream but for kids who play here in the summer,” Nenn said. “A very high percentage of that river water is going to have treated wastewater in it.”</p><p>Peter Annin, the author of “The Great Lakes Water Wars,” said Waukesha’s solution to this has been described as “Rube Goldberg like.” &nbsp;Getting water under the compact is a complex process by design. Annin said Waukesha’s application is so complicated, it would take at least two trips up the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) to explain it.</p><p>That’s a concern to some lawmakers, officials and environmental advocates. They said they’d hoped that this first big test would have been, well, a little cleaner, a little less complicated.</p><p>That’s because they’re concerned this case will set precedents that could determine how high – or low – the bar will be set for future diversions from the Great Lakes.</p><p>“By setting the bar too low, by ignoring the fact this is the first big precedent set, would just open the door to a bunch of mediocre, subpar applications around the region,” said lawyer Jodi Habush Sinykin with Midwest Environmental Advocates. “If we have this first application meet a high bar, we can have a far better chance &nbsp;that the rest of the region will follow likewise.”</p><p>To give you an idea just how complicated this application is, consider the fact the city’s own mayor is arguing the city has other alternatives than lake water. He won election partly by arguing against the need for Milwaukee water.</p><p>The rest of the council has pretty much voted to say, hey, no, we don’t have other alternatives. That’s a key requirement under the compact. Waukesha needs to get an OK from all eight Great Lakes governors, and it’s easy to see at least one set of gubernatorial eyebrows wagging over the mayor’s stance.</p><p>One hundred years ago, Waukesha used to have so much water, it bubbled from the ground all over the city. The famous springs fed lavish resorts and one of the nation’s largest bottling companies.</p><p>Duchniak took me to Hobo Springs to show me part of what’s left. Hobo Springs is now just a small stone fountain with a little water and a lot of pennies, like a wishing well.</p><p>“It is kind of ironic that the once water capital of the world is now looking for water and is looking at the Great Lakes as their water supply,” Duchniak said.</p></p> Tue, 21 Jun 2011 23:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/waukeshas-request-great-lakes-water-complex-first-test-law-88160