By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Ready or not, the Foxconn debacle is about to begin in earnest. It’s estimated that up to 1,000 gravel-laden dump trucks are now poised to rumble through once-fertile farmland in Racine County, to make way for the massive Foxconn manufacturing experiment. But, apparently, not all’s well in the town of Mudville or, in this instance, Mount Pleasant.
Wisconsin officials are now trying to mount a defense to placate other states that have raised concerns over the decision to allow Racine to tap into Lake Michigan to supply the Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing complex. At issue is the Department of Natural Resources’ decision that would supply an average of seven million gallons of water a day to neighboring Mount Pleasant.
The seven million gallons a day Racine would provide to Mount Pleasant, 5.8 million gallons, or 83 percent, are earmarked for Foxconn, according to the city’s application.
It’s important to note that Lake Michigan is not the exclusive natural resource of the state of Wisconsin but falls under the conservation auspices of the Great Lakes Compact.
The Compact is an agreement of the eight states that border the lakes, which retains the authority to formally challenge the Foxconn water plan. An agreement that was initially signed in 2008 generally forbids the movement of water, outside the great Lakes basin, with some exceptions.
But, there now appears to be a legal battle to this water diversion plan. Four organizations have filed a legal challenge to the DNR’s decision, contending the agency violated compact requirements that say water transfers must be for “public water supply purposes” that serve a “group of largely residential customers that may also serve industrial, commercial, and other institutional operators.” The groups are Milwaukee Riverkeeper, River Alliance of Wisconsin, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocates, a public interest law firm in Madison.
There are an array of environmental challenges that are part and parcel of the Foxconn project, which range from disposal of chemical wastes to the devastating impact a plant that size will have on the surrounding watershed environment. It remains to be seen just how protracted this legal dispute may become, but one thing is for certain: it will stymie the completion date for the Foxconn plant coming online.