We in our state are facing a water crisis, as well as the rest of the country. The crisis is a serious shortage of fresh water, which has already started to affect us.
Lake Superior holds 10 percent of the world’s fresh water, which we will soon have to depend on for our water supply. Lake Michigan is no longer adequate to supply the cities that use its water, yet more and more cities want to take their water from it as our underground water levels continue to decline.
Wells will soon be inadequate to furnish water to even small users of water. Can most people afford to send wells 1,500 feet or deeper to draw water? Of course not. And most cities are faced with the same problem. Many states are faced with the same problem. In western states, corn is being replaced as a crop by cotton because cotton uses only one-third as much water as corn. Bison are slowly replacing beef breeds because it takes less water to raise bison.
Within 10 years, cities and individuals will be looking toward Lake Superior as a source of water. Green Bay already has its water delivered via a 40-inch diameter pipeline bringing water from Lake Michigan at well sites near Manitowoc. Appleton wants to do the same thing soon.
And that is why Lake Superior must be kept uncontaminated by mining and toxic runoff. The near future, water will be drawn from this pure lake via pipeline to supply cities and people living hundreds of miles from the lake. A network of pipelines can bring fresh water to any area of this state.
The new mining bill will allow dumping of mine waste into small lakes and streams, which will totally degrade the water near Lake Superior and possibly the lake itself. This mine would be built at a fairly high elevation so that any spills or toxins will run directly into the wetlands adjacent to Lake Superior and even the lake itself.
There is no great demand for iron ore at this time; other mining companies are keeping up with the demand. The company that wants to mine this deposit in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills is a small company by industry standards. This is their first such mining attempt and the only way they can mine is special considerations or “breaks” given them by the governor and the legislature. Iron mining is a boom-and-bust type of business and when world commodity prices for iron ore fall, the mine will decrease production.
If, however, water treatment facilities and wells in the lake and the pipeline were built, these activities would provide the hundreds of jobs needed in the proposed mine site area. These would be permanent jobs, steady jobs. The rivers that flow into Lake Superior would continue to flow pure and clear, providing us with the water we will need soon.
How short-sighted to allow this wonderful resource of pure water to be destroyed because of greed and selfishness. Just one mistake, one spill, could ruin this water for centuries to come. We are blessed to have this gift of pure water given to us to sustain life. Let foresight guide us in protecting our future water resource.
Gerald Rau, Rhinelander