Monday, March 23, 2009

Waukesha Forging Ahead With Diversion Planning: Why The Rush?

Waukesha is getting its Lake Michigan diversion ducks in line, proposing to shell out $40,000 to the MMSD for a feasibility study on dumping treated wastewater into Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa to comply with return flow requirements - - during some portions of the year ony - - laid out in the Great Lakes Compact.

Waukesha and SEWRPC officials believe Underwood Creek can take the new flow.

MMSD will see if that is true, feasible and prudent;

Wauwatosa has yet to be heard from.

And the DNR has yet to write one sentence of the administrative rules that are required to be in place governing Wisconsin diversions, according to the Compact implementing bill passed last year.

With no water crisis in the region, and once-pending legal challenges tied up with regulators concerned about Waukesha's well water safety, what is the hurry?

2 comments:

rich said...

How is Waukesha a 'watershed straddling' municipality?

Maybe I'm missing something, but the watershed & municipal boundary maps I've tracked down don't overlap.

And if they do, it's only because of massive eastward annexation into/of Brookfield -- that only puts a miniscule portion of the city in the Lake Michigan watershed.

If that's the case, Doyle mucked this up big-time -- it's the proverbial camel's nose in the tent -- and it'll bring down the entire watershed.

Are there even any water efficiency requirements these municipalities have to put in place? Land density requirements? I'd like to see Wisconsin follow the MTA's lead in extending BART service to the region: No city gets commuter train service until the upgrade land regulations around stations to full TOD status -- allowing enough density and walkability to make the system work.

Why not do the same thing here? Until New Berlin and Waukesha install water efficiency measures, and pass sustainability that, say, outlaw lawn watering and offer tax credits for native lanscaping -- no water. It's reasonable, it requires a little responsibility and reciprocity, and moves the issue in the right direction. and it

Otherwise, it just seems they're staging resources for a massive expansion of urbanized area -- west of the Lake Michigan watershed boundary -- with our water. They're doing it where we can least afford it, at the expense of the central city. And they're continuing to reinforce a development pattern and lifestyle we can no longer afford.

James Rowen said...

To Rich;

Waukesha is not a straddling community under the terms of the Great Lakes Compact.

And Jim Doyle did not establish these definitions - - negotiators from eight states and two Canadian provinces worked them out over several years.

Waukesha is a community in a county that itself touches, or straddles, the Great Lakes basin, which is different than a straddling community like New Berlin, which has the Great Lakes basin actually touching or running through the city limits.

So Waukesha is totally outside the basin, but in a county that is partially within.

Under the Compact, both Waukesha and New Berlin are eligible to apply for diverions, but the standard for New Berlin is less complicarted.

Though both New Berlin and Waukesha have to meet the same requirements for return flow and pre-diversion conservation programming, New Berlin's application only needs Wisconsin approval.

Waukesha needs the approval of all eight Great Lakes states.

I agree that diversions will induce growth away from Milwaukee, and that Milwaukee needs to be much tougher on any deals cut with communities if their diverions are approved.

And the Wisconsin DNR has to put in place rules before diversions are approved that guarantee public input into the process so that backroom side deals don't allow for sham conservation 'practices,' or that water quality issues raised in the return flow arrangements are, in fact, real and not mere empty promises on paper.

For example, Waukesha is talking about dumping wastewater from Lake Michigan into Undwerwood Creek in Wauwatosa - - but doesn't want to get a permit to do so, arguiing that its existing permit to discharge into the Fox River in Waukesha County is adequate.

The Fox and Underwoood are different bodies of water, so the DNR needs to hold Waukesha to a better standard, and that means putting into place a rule before Waukesha's application is approved that requires all return flow activities to obtain a permit based on a scientific analysis of what's in the water and where is it going, and tha examines and approves of impacts downstream.

Furthermore: Milwaukee settled for $75,000 a year for 20 years from New Berlin as part of New Berlin's pending diversion application - - a totally inadequate sum given the $1 billion in development the water still assist.

Not to mention the millions it will cost Milwaukee to put in new pumps and infrastructure to get the water out to New Berlin.

I expect Waukesha to offer perhaps double what New Berlin provided, even though Waukesha wants to divert five-to-six times New Berlin's projected volume.

A study authorized by Milwaukee's Common Council to determine the true value of water beyond the typical per-gallon rates approved by the state public service commission has yet to be awarded.

And the regional planning commission's pending water study plan recommendations (including recommending a diversion to Waukesha) failed to examine or predict or weigh socio-economic consequences resulting from diversions in the region, so there is a huge amount of unfinished business all across these issuse.