To: International Joint Commission
From: The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
Date: June 18, 2019
Re: Address to the International Joint Commission at the June 18, 2019 meeting in Milwaukee
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin implores the International Joint Commission to prioritize the protection and retention of the waters of the Great Lakes, a freshwater planetary wonder. We depend on the Great Lakes and must steward them.
Diversions and Groundwater:
We look to the International Joint Commission to use its powers to protect from diversions the natural water levels of the Great Lakes and connections under Article III, Boundary Waters Treaty, 1909. We urge the IJC to redouble its oversight of the Great Lakes Compact of 2008 and its strict prohibition of unnatural diversions of Great Lakes water to areas outside the Great Lakes Basin.
The Compact’s mandatory standards for water conservation and efficient water management to prevent surface and ground water depletion within the Great Lakes Basin must be upheld and enforced. This complements the groundwater work of the IJC Groundwater Annex. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is working to extend mandatory standards for water conservation to all Wisconsin waters.
The Great Lakes Compact’s key provision is a ban on diversions. Recognizing the pressure for expansive growth in the Great Lakes Region and in the face of increasing climate change, the Compact provides for strictly limited diversions to counties and communities straddling the Great Lakes divide. These strict limits have been compromised. The recent governmental overreach - to supply Great Lakes water for the gigantic Foxconn manufacturing project in Racine County WI - is based on a wrongful interpretation of a key Compact standard. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and partnering organizations challenged this wrongful interpretation and lost an administrative appeal. Further legal actions are now being explored by the group.
Weakening of the Great Lakes Compact sets the stage for future private diversion proposals. The IJC could and should speak out in support of strict enforcement of the Great Lakes Compact in the interest of the long-term viability of the Great Lakes Region.
Aquatic Invasive Species Annex:
Careless and improper management of our Great Lakes to date has destroyed much of the native ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Fisheries of the early 20th century are gone, largely replaced by non-native and/or aquatic invasive species. Having grievously disrupted the native ecosystems of the Lakes, we must steward their remnant ecosystems and waters. We applaud the IJC Aquatic Invasive Species Annex in establishing early detection and response protocols that are now used in Canada and the US along with provincial and municipal partners.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin commented in support of the control structure at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to stop Asian Carp. Now we are seeking aggressive implementation by the US Army Corps of Engineers and state and municipal partners. Recently the mayors of the Great Lakes cities convened in Sheboygan WI to sign an Urgent Action - the “Mayor's Declaration to Stop Asian Carp.” We urge the IJC to use your influence in the US Congress and Administration to ensure adequate funding and prompt implementation of this project to stop Asian Carp from invading the Great Lakes System.
These efforts are commendable. However, they have long-term value only as long as the waters in the Great Lakes remain in the Lakes, are healthy, and are not wantonly diverted. The global dearth of freshwater threatens the Great Lakes that we in the region have long taken for granted. Water rich states like Wisconsin as well as the Great Lakes are no doubt being eyed for exploitation. The duty of the IJC - along with the Great Lakes Water Council, the United States Congress and Administration, and their Canadian counterparts - is to assure the viability of the Great Lakes and the Region in perpetuity.
Thank you for considering our comments.