Milwaukee – Today, the NAACP-Milwaukee Branch, Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Great Waters Group - Sierra Club John Muir Chapter, and environmental attorney Dennis Grzezinski, filed comments with the Department of Natural Resources, asking them to deny Waukesha’s application for diversion of water from Lake Michigan.  The groups object to the application because diverting water to the suburbs will worsen segregation and racial disparities in the region.

“Thus far, the environmental impact study has utterly failed to address, much less resolve, the needs and concerns of communities of color,” said Karyn Rotker, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin.

“Allowing a Lake Michigan water diversion to enable continued unrestrained sprawl and job migration will have the inevitable effect of perpetuating racial and economic segregation in the region, to the clear disadvantage of persons of color, especially African-Americans,” added Fred Royal, president of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP.

It is one thing for a water diversion application to seek to serve an existing community that has no other alternative.  It is quite another for a community to seek to divert water not only to meet its current needs, but to support and undergird industrial, commercial and residential expansion – especially when the benefits of that expansion exclude communities of color, mostly African-Americans, in the region.

“And the requested diversion is not needed to serve an existing “community” in need of water, as the Great Lakes Compact requires,” explained attorney Grzezinski. As comments and studies submitted by others, such as the Compact Implementation Coalition, make clear, the city of Waukesha could meet its water needs without diverting Lake Michigan water. That it wants more water to support future growth and expansion outside the city limits does not justify the diversion.

“If a diversion is not used to increase development in the Waukesha suburbs, then there’s more incentive for those jobs and employers to locate or relocate in the city of Milwaukee,” added MICAH president, Rev. Willie Brisco. “And we all know that is something our community needs.”

The full text of comments can be found below.


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