Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Foxconn signing

House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, Foxconn chairman and CEO Terry Gou, and Gov. Scott Walker celebrate the signing of a $2.85 billion incentives contract last year to bring the Foxconn Technology Group to Wisconsin. The company plans to build a massive facility in the village of Mount Pleasant.


The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says it will decide in about 90 days on a request to pump 7 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan as part of a proposed Foxconn manufacturing complex state leaders have pushed as a major job creator.

The DNR on Monday released the Racine Water Utility’s application for an exception from a Great Lakes Compact ban on new or expanded diversions of water to places outside the Great Lakes basin.

But an attorney who was involved in the development of the Wisconsin law implementing the compact said the state may be moving too quickly and risking a precedent that could make it impossible to say no to private demands for excessive withdrawals of fresh water in the future.

“I want to make sure we aren’t rushing through the process and that Wisconsin is doing its due diligence,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin, a Midwest Environmental Advocates attorney.

A DNR official and a lawyer who worked on the Foxconn water plan said it is consistent with the law and won’t skirt conservation criteria.

In recent months the Legislature, Gov. Scott Walker and local governments have approved an estimated $4.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the Taiwan-based Foxconn, which hopes to build a $10 billion complex employing as many as 13,000 workers to build and assemble liquid crystal display panels.

The manufacture of LCD panels for televisions and other electronic devices requires very large amounts of water to clean each layer of circuitry as it is fabricated, because even a speck of dust can disrupt the circuit signals.

Under state law, the water would need to be treated before it is pumped back into the lakes. An average of 2.7 million gallons per day would be consumed, mostly through evaporation, the DNR said.

Racine’s application to the DNR confirmed predictions by the DNR that review by the other seven states in the compact wouldn’t be necessary even though nearly half the Foxconn complex would be outside the Great Lakes basin.

Racine is proposing to pump the water to the Foxconn development in the village Mount Pleasant, which straddles the boundary between the Lake Michigan drainage basin and the Mississippi River basin.

Sinykin said Racine’s role in the plan may serve to circumvent provisions of the compact and state law designed to restrict large-scale diversions outside of the Great Lakes basin.

The compact and the law allow “straddling” communities like Mount Pleasant who meet certain criteria to be granted exceptions to the diversion ban if the water is used as part of a public water supply and doesn’t add withdrawals over 100,000 gallon per day.

The 7 million gallons would be a major new withdrawal for Mount Pleasant. And with most of the water going to the privately held Foxconn, the project couldn’t be considered a public water system, Sinykin said. Consequently, under the law it would be subject to much greater scrutiny, higher conservation standards and a longer review if the village was taking the lead, she said.

But with Racine applying for the diversion, those obstacles disappear. The Racine water utility already has approval to withdraw much more water than the roughly 17 million gallons per day it is now pumping, so the 7 million gallons a day for the Foxconn development isn’t technically a new or increased withdrawal from Lake Michigan.

And because Racine has thousands of residential customers, its water system would still qualify as a public water system after the addition of Foxconn.

Madison attorney Lawrie Kobza, who worked on the Racine diversion proposal, said she doesn’t see anything in the law to prevent Racine from serving as the applicant.

The DNR’s Eric Ebersberger said Racine’s role in the plan won’t result in any criteria not being applicable.

The Great Lakes Compact was inspired by growth and political clout among arid, southern states. The eight states in the compact wanted to prevent raids on the nation’s largest single source of fresh surface water.

In 2016 the governors of the eight compact states approved a diversion to Waukesha, which is entirely outside the basin. The decision was made after months of debate and despite fears it would set a precedent that would encourage others to line up with their own pipeline proposals.

For the Foxconn proposal, the DNR plans to conduct a public hearing and accept written public comment. Details will be posted on a DNR webpage, the department said.


(21) comments


DMoney continues to wallow in ignorance. .......

Matt Foley

What are the chances the water returned to Lake Michigan won't contain a plethora of toxic chemicals. Walker "Just the price of doing business" Along with billions of tax incentives, millions in road work, filling wetlands for jobs for Illinois residents. maybe Walker can run for Congress in Illinois or a cabinet position in Trump's Department of Sleaze.


Good point Matt.


Subtainable system??? There is no mention of this anywhere?


There are agencies that will enforce and monitor this. I have been through it before, no corporation can get away with environmental abuse in today's world. Let our environmental agencies do their jobs.


dahh If memory serves me correctly, that was part of the foxconn deal passed by the state government. They will be exempt from all state environmental laws. However the must obey federal laws, and with repubs in charge of that you can bet they will skirt those laws. Corporations get away all the time with environmental laws. If they get caught all they do is pay a puny fine and keep on doing business. Don't know what world you live in, but that is the reality.


Tell that to the Republican Party.


A sustainable system will be created. The lake won't go dry. You are fear mongers and extremely jealous and vengeful that a Republican politician is going to be bringing in thousands of jobs and millions into the economy.


You make such positive assumptions...and reject due diligence or a healthy level of skepticism for irreplaceable resources. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, has a very poor environmental track assuming they will create a sustainable system is not an intelligent strategy. Justifying your dereliction of duty by saying "the lake won't go dry" is also idiotic and negligent. If you think this won't set a legal precedent for other companies to extract the public's resources for private gain, then you're not being a good or reasonable person.


"There are agencies that will enforce and monitor this". What a joke.


Just another layer in the big con brought to you by republicans. Wisconsinites will pay and pay and pay with higher taxes and a destroyed environment.

El Duderino

Are you okay, Fran?


I hope the surrounding lake states sue the heck out of us.


Maybe they could give FoxConn the sewage discharge from Milwaukee sewer plants. It would be a win-win. Hey, it's "clean", it's water,they could recycle their own waste and not jeopardize our Great Lakes Region. If the con-job agreement calls for water, there is a great source.


now you know the real reason foxconn wanted to locate in that part of the state. Scooter could of given away a lot less in tax money, foxconn would of still located there, they need water to manufacture, and lots of it. Boy is this state being taken for a ride by a foreign company thanks to stupid politicians.


That was not hard to figure out from the beginning - if people just THINK! The water issue alone would ring alarm bells for anyone who understands our environment, the fragility of our finite water supply, and the reckless ignorance of everyone involved in greasing the skids for this debacle. All I can say is FOXCONN will destroy Wisconsin so face we won't know what hit us.... and then they will leave permanent disgusting shambles behind for taxpayers to clean up! Walker will do anything to try to make it look like 'something'. Ignorance is rampant in our statehouse!

El Duderino

I thought putting the plant in the center of the state, like a Stevens Point for example, would greatly increase the odds the jobs go to Sconnies. It’s concerning to hear such a great natural resource is now in play with such little oversight and accountability (admittedly, I haven’t followed every detail). Got a bad feeling about this venture....


Greed will destroy our country and the environment.


Obe of the largest fresh water basins of the world, Lake Michigan.... to be depleted and polluted by a foreign entity we WI taxpayers are forced to subsidize. Gee, what could possibly go wrong??? Who will monitor what they pump back in? What a risky endeavor for the entire eco-system.


What other resources and rules have been given and circumvented to Scooter’s Great Fox Con Scam and Rip-off ? Scooter has done every thing possible to hide all the details until it was approved. If this college dropout would have put his effort in keeping and growing Wisconsin companies, the taxpayers and labor force would have been impacted positively. The price tag has grown from 3 billion to 4.5 billion to who knows what. The next several generations are stuck with his williness to bend over for the rich.


Give them whatever they want. Nothing is off limits.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe or log in to continue.