News from the Park – Waukesha Water Diversion Project

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The Ontario Legislature may be recessed for the summer, but there is still so much going on, both here in Algoma-Manitoulin and across the province.  I have enjoyed many opportunities to speak with so many constituents in the last few weeks. Algoma-Manitoulin has no shortage of events for locals and visitors alike to attend and enjoy.  Some events are annual, and we look forward to attending each summer.  Others are special events, gatherings for special announcements, grand openings, festivals, concerts…. And the list goes on. In the coming weeks I will continue to travel across the riding and look forward to meeting with many friends, old and new.

One issue of special note that I wish to bring to your attention is the matter of the Waukesha Water Diversion Project that has been in the news for quite some time. This project has been proposed to meet the needs of the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin.  The city’s proposal is divert millions of litres of fresh water daily from the Great Lakes.  Such proposals have been under the scrutiny of international agreements such as the Great Lakes–Saint Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement and the corresponding Great Lakes -St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.  These agreements were meant to safeguard and protect the Great Lakes from unnecessary diversions.

It is important to note that there has been a long standing policy that no water from the Great Lakes is to be diverted to areas which lie outside of the Great Lakes Basin. However, the city of Waukesha is not located fully within the basin. As such, diverting water to that community has until now been forbidden.

The Province of Ontario is a voting member of the international government agencies who oversee the agreements.  Since Algoma-Manitoulin is fully located within the bounds of the Great Lakes Basin I have been quite vocal on this issue, and have reminded the Premier and her ministers that extreme caution must be used as our representatives consider whether to approve this project.

I have pointed out to the premier that the ramifications of this decision reach far beyond simply supplying drinking water to a city that is not fully located within the boundaries of the Great Lakes Basin.  By voting to approve this exception to the terms of the compact, it will set precedent that truly opens the floodgates to similar future applications.

The international authorities received over well 11,000 comments from the general public, municipalities, special interest groups and others, of which fully 99% expressed disfavour of the proposal.  This was truly and important test of the Great Lakes Compact Agreement and it seems that the officials involved have not stepped up to the plate to protect our precious environment nor the residents within the geographical area.

In May, Ontario had its final opportunity to have a say in the precedent setting decision before it went to a final vote by the American states in June. Despite receiving many thousands of urgings not to support the proposal, the governments of Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. Great Lakes states voted to approve the project which will see 37 million litres of water, each and every day, diverted to a community which lies outside the basin.  As well, how long will it be until the request goes in for more?  With this precedent setting decision, how many proposals from other communities will we see come along to request the same exception to the rules in the future?

The Great Lakes are vital to the region’s ecosystem and economy.  They represent 20% of the world’s available surface freshwater. While this project seems to be moving forward, it is important that we remain vigilant in protecting the Great Lakes. It is imperative that we continue to work to strengthen, improve and enforce the terms of the Great Lakes–Saint Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710/1-800-831-1899.

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