The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C. in Government of the Province of Manitoba v. Ken Salazar, et al. The case involves a challenge by Manitoba, joined by Canada and several conservation organizations, to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Impact Statement for the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) Project.
The NAWS Project is the first United States transbasin water transfer project to breach the barrier between the Missouri River Basin and the Hudson Bay Basin. The diversion could transfer invasive species and diseases into downstream waters in the United States and Canada, and threatens the quality and quantity of water supplies. The proponents of the project have not properly examined less damaging alternatives and options, such as water conservation and recycling. Nor have the project’s proponents undertaken a full review of the environmental impacts of the water diversion. For additional background on the NAWS project and other related projects, see the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center’s Transbasin Water Diversions webpage.
Conservationists have long been concerned with the risks of the NAWS project to water resources. The NAWS water diversion represents the first ever federal project involving an interbasin water transfer linking the Missouri River Basin to the Hudson Bay Basin. For better or worse, it could become an important precedent-setting project for other water diversions. Given the stakes, the Bureau of Reclamation should have adhered strictly to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act with a thorough and comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement. Instead, the Bureau of Reclamation is trying to rush through a novel and potentially devastating project that creates a danger for all fresh water basins in the United States, particularly the Great Lakes.
In addition to setting a precedent for other water diversions, the NAWS project threatens water quality and aquatic life in the Missouri River Basin and Hudson Bay Basin. The diversion of water from one separate drainage basin to another will also impact residential, commercial and recreational water use. The reductions of water levels in combination with the impacts from climate change pose an increased risk of invasion of non-native species and subsequent transfer of invasive species through the pipeline to the Hudson Bay Basin.
As detailed in our brief, the NAWS project advances an environmentally and economically unsound water diversion. The project threatens to transfer invasive species, fails to account for climate change impacts, and completely ignores smarter, cheaper, less damaging alternatives like water conservation. In this project and other legal advocacy on transbasin water diversions, the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center will continue to work for sound, practical policy solutions for water resource management while opposing dangerous, precedent-setting projects that could harm the people and environment of the Great Lakes region.
The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center filed the brief jointly with the National Wildlife Federation, Minnesota Conservation Federation, and South Dakota Wildlife Federation, supporting the Province of Manitoba (Manitoba’s brief is available here). The Government of Canada also submitted an amicus brief to support Plaintiff Manitoba’s arguments. Attorney Nick Schroeck led the effort, with invaluable assistance from Wayne Environmental Law Clinic student Catherine Deciechi.