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Treasuring Land and Water

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Cities Initiative Settlement Helps Safeguard Valuable Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River Water Resources

On behalf of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the firm challenged a decision to allow the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin, to divert water from Lake Michigan. Waukesha lies in a county that straddles the Great Lakes basin, and the decision by the St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council (Compact Council) marked the first time the Compact Council approved the diversion of Great Lakes water to a community outside the basin.

This agreement will help protect the long-term integrity of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River for future generations.
— Régis Labeaume, Cities Initiative Secretary

As part of its challenge, the Cities Initiative sought clarification of the standards used to evaluate the Waukesha diversion application, as well as the standards that the Council would use to evaluate future diversion requests. In August 2016, the Jenner & Block team asked for a hearing before the Compact Council to reconsider the diversion and submitted a 64-page written statement detailing the legal and technical reasons reconsideration was appropriate. On March 20, 2017, after additional extensive briefing, the Council held a hearing and allowed oral argument by the Cities Initiative and the City of Waukesha. On May 4, 2017, the Council issued an opinion affirming its earlier decision approving the diversion. On August 2, 2017, the Cities Initiative announced it was settling its challenge pursuant to an agreement with the Compact Council that calls for a rigorous review of the Council’s process for considering diversions, with extensive stakeholder input in determining whether the Council should adopt formal rules and revised guidelines for the future.

“This agreement will help protect the long-term integrity of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River for future generations,” said Cities Initiative Secretary Régis Labeaume.

John Dickert, Cities Initiative president and CEO, added, “This mutually beneficial settlement agreement has set the foundation for meaningful progress to safeguard our valuable water resources.”

The firm team representing the Cities Initiative included Partners Steven Siros and Allison Torrence; Of Counsel Stephen Armstrong and Andi Kenney; Associate Alexander Bandza; and former associate Laura Bishop. Former partner Jill Hutchison argued on behalf of the Cities Initiative, and former partner Lynn Grayson was also on the team.