President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan will be in Wisconsin this Thursday for the groundbreaking of the $10 billion Foxconn plant.
The Taiwanese electronics company has promised thousands of jobs in Racine County and in return has been offered $4.5 billion in tax incentives.
The plant will also require 5.8 million gallons of water a day diverted from Lake Michigan for operations.
Peter Annin is the co-director of the Northland College Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation in Wisconsin and author of “The Great Lake Water Wars.” He spoke with Stateside on the impacts this diversion will have on the Great Lakes Compact, a binding commitment to keeping Great Lakes water in its basin.
Mount Pleasant, located in Racine County, sits right on the edge of the Great Lakes water basin. The Great Lakes Compact refers to these regions as “straddling communities,” and grants them certain exceptions when it comes to water diversion.
Compact drafters predicted that these communities would want to send water to the other side of their town — outside of the Great Lake’s basin — so the whole community could use the same plumbing system. Therefore compact exception allows them to divert water from the Great Lakes with special approval.
In most of these previous cases of diversion, the water was being put to residential use. Racine’s withdrawal has generated great controversy because the county filed an application for the diversion of 7 million gallons per day, 5.8 millions of which will go directly to a corporation.
Drafters of the Great Lakes Compact are torn over whether or not the corporate use of diversions violates the compact.
Some drafters say the compact suggests that the diverted water can only be used for primarily residential use. Other drafters and officials say the preponderance of all the water used by a straddling community must be for residential use. Therefore, since Racine’s entire water system is primarily going to residential customers, they would not be in violation of the compact with this new request.
A month after this diversion application was approved, an environmental rights group issued a challenge to it.