Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There Is More To The Presidency Than Making Economic Policy

Another fresh sign that President Barack Obama's election continues to bring about change: the administration, reversing the Bush administration position, has asked for a seat on the UN's Human Rights Council, allowing the US to re-engage on foreign affairs instead of stubbornly going it alone.

Madison Journalist, Now A Publisher, In The News In Detroit

Jon Wolman, a former AP staffer who got his start in Madison, is quoted in today's New York Times as the editor and publisher of The Detroit News; that paper began its cost-saving planned reduction of daily deliveries coincidentally on the same day the city was overwhelmed with breaking news about Detroit's automakers.

Talk about bum luck, and a taste of what's in store for readers and consumers of news as newspapers go online, or disappear altogether.

I've known Jon for years: his dad J. Martin "Murph" Wolman was formerly publisher of The Wisconsin State Journal, Madison's morning paper.

These are sad, bad days in the newspaper business, and I suspect rough on someone like Jon who was born into the profession and is watching it spiral downwards.

Negative Reviews Of New Berlin Water Plan Intensify; Will DNR Get The Message?

The drum beat against New Berlin's water diversion plan - - and how its official review may be handled by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - is getting louder.

In a nutshell, the DNR could mishandle this review and set off a chain reaction of disappointment and opposition across the Great Lakes, with subsequent applications, such as those coming from Waukesha, paying the price.

Here is what is going on:

Last week, the Alliance For The Great Lakes, and the National Wildlife Federation raised objections, which I posted, as the comment period on the application established by the DNR wound down.

The DNR has sole authority to approve this application because part of New Berlin is in the Great Lakes basin, but future applications from other communities that are completely outside of the Great Lakes basin will require a review and approval by eight states.

Then a dozen Wisconsin groups weighed in, too, citing deficiencies in the application ranging from inadequate conservation planning to confusing official maps suggesting where the diverted Lake Michigan water might be used.

These are required elements in an application, according to the in-place Great Lakes Compact, signed into law last year in Wisconsin, by the seven other Great Lakes states, and the US Congress and President, too.

Now I see that several groups from other states signed the objections filed by the Alliance, and the Wildlife Federation, so I will post below the text of that letter.

The authors of the critique call the New Berlin application "gravely deficient."

The DNR really needs to more carefully review New Berlin's plan, and approve rules prior to approving New Berlin's application.

Failing to get the horse before the cart would be a little like going to trial, but having jury instructions issued after a verdict.

Or playing the World Series, and having the umpires issue the ground rules after the games were over.

If the DNR alienates these influential, mainstream interests in the other states - - set aside that Wisconsin groups are raising similar objections - - the push back will come during the review of Waukesha's probable application because that one needs the approval of all eight Great Lakes states.

Message to DNR: think strategically, not short-term.

There is more on the table than New Berlin's plan, which, it seems, is inadequate and incomplete, and headed for DNR review without guiding rules in place.

The critics, with solid legal and conservation objections, are offering the DNR all the material and context it needs to slow down its review, write its rules first, and get the New Berlin review and the overall processes done right.

The DNR simply has to say it will put rule-making before application approval.

It's not a delay. It's basic Governance, and Water Stewardship, which are at the core of the DNR's mission.

Here is the text of the letter to the DNR from the Great Lakes regional groups:


March 27, 2008

VIA E-MAIL, FAX AND POSTAL MAIL

Deb Lyons-Roehl
DG-5
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 South Webster Street
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921
(608) 267-7650
dnrnewberlindiversion@wi.gov

Re: Application for a Diversion by a Straddling Community – New Berlin

Dear Ms. Lyons-Roehl:

The Alliance for the Great Lakes (Alliance) and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) thank the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) for this opportunity to comment on the first proposed Great Lakes water diversion by the City of New Berlin (City).

We urge the WDNR to ensure that the City’s application for a diversion as a straddling community is complete and is reviewed utilizing a thorough and publicly accessible process. In addition, any subsequent approval must fully support the sound implementation of the Compact and Wisconsin’s legislation.

Background: The Compact – A Forward-Looking Policy

On October 3, 2008, the President signed a joint resolution of Congress consenting to the Compact.

This followed nearly five years of negotiations between the States and three years of review and approval by the eight Great Lakes state legislatures. Our groups were actively engaged in Compact negotiations and worked with state and federal officials for Compact approval. The Compact is intended to provide a comprehensive management and legal framework for achieving sustainable water use and resource protection in the Great Lakes basin.

The Compact framework requires each state to create a management program for water withdrawals and consumptive uses within the Great Lakes basin, a program that Wisconsin created through Act 227.

While the Compact prohibits new or increased diversions of water outside of the basin, it includes exceptions for public water supply purposes to communities that straddle the Great Lakes basin divide and to communities located wholly within counties that straddle the basin divide.

The standards for approval of a diversion by a community located wholly within a county that straddles the basin divide, like Waukesha, are more stringent than those for a community that straddles the divide, like New Berlin. The most notable difference is that applications by communities that straddle the divide are approved at the state level, and do not require regional review.

However, there are very substantial similarities. It is vital to the sound implementation of the Compact that, in those aspects where the requirements are equivalent, the review, process and conditions of any subsequent approval of the City’s application set a high standard.

Absence of Rules & Regulations: A Hindrance to Determining Application’s Completeness

We commend the WDNR for initiating the March 12, 2009, public hearing on New Berlin’s application. However, we are concerned that the WDNR has initiated a review process after stating in the public notice that it has “…determined that the application materials submitted by the City of New Berlin constitute a complete application under Wis. Stat. § 281.346(9)(b)1.”

Whether the intent of the Compact is fulfilled depends in part on the states and provinces requiring complete applications. The City’s application is the first test of the Compact and, unfortunately, the application is incomplete, as detailed below. Because the application is incomplete, it appears that the City’s project would not fulfill the terms of the Compact.

It could be inferred from the language in the public notice that Wis. Stat. § 281.346(9)(b)1. governs the completeness of an application. That section of the statute is, however, limited to issues regarding public notice.

Requirements for a diversion application are found in Wis. Stat. § 281.346(4)(b). These requirements include the following: “A person who applies under subd. 1. shall provide information about the potential impacts of the diversion on the waters of the Great Lakes basin and water dependent natural resources and any other information required by the department by rule (emphasis added).”

Because the City’s diversion proposal would increase the withdrawal of water from Lake Michigan by a maximum 30-day average over one million gallons per day, that increased withdrawal requires approval not only under the "straddling community" exception, but also approval of an individual permit under Wis. Stat. § 281.346(5).

The withdrawal must meet the standards set forth in the state decision-making standard in Wis. Stat. § 281.346(5m), including use of conservation practices and an assessment of "other potential water sources for cost-effectiveness and environmental effects."

No diversion can proceed unless this individual permit is issued. Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 281.346(5)(n), an applicant for this permit is required to submit "information required by the department by rule" (emphasis added). But it is unclear how the WDNR can determine whether an applicant has submitted the correct information if there is no rule in place.

An additional application requirement is found in Wis. Stat. § 281.346(4)(g). Under this paragraph, the WNDR is directed to "promulgate rules specifying the requirements for an applicant for a new or increased diversion subject to par. (f) to demonstrate the efficient use and conservation of existing water supplies for the purposes of pars. (d) 2. b. and 3. b., (e) 1. d., and (f) 1., including requiring the applicant to document the water conservation planning and analysis used to identify the water conservation and efficiency measures that the applicant determined were feasible."

In turn, under Wis. Stat. § 281.346(f)(1), the WDNR must decide if "[t]he need for the proposed diversion cannot reasonably be avoided through the efficient use and conservation of existing water supplies as determined under par. (g)" (emphasis added).

In the short time since the approval of the Compact, the WDNR has not developed approved rules as called for above. It is unclear whether New Berlin's application is complete because there are no rules specifying the documentation New Berlin is supposed to provide to WDNR, specifically on conservation and efficient use of supplies.

It is also unclear how the WDNR will decide whether New Berlin meets paragraph (f)(1) "as determined under par. (g)" when the rules called for under paragraph (g) have not been issued. The Alliance and NWF are concerned that WDNR is proceeding in the absence of these rules which makes it difficult to judge whether the City’s application is complete. Our concern is heightened by the absence of state drinking water conservation standards and in the absence of a meaningful water conservation program in the City’s application.

Application Fails To Meet Compact’s Water Conservation Requirements

While the City’s application has no State conservation rules or standards to comply with, it fails to fulfill the Compact’s intent for water conservation. Under Section 4.9 1 b. of the Compact, this applicant must meet the Exception Standard requirements found at Section 4.9 4 of the Compact.

Paragraph e. of that Standard states: “The Exception will be implemented so as to incorporate Environmentally Sound and Economically Feasible Water Conservation Measures to minimize Water Withdrawals or Consumptive Use.”

The Compact defines these measures in Section 1.2 to include "those measures, methods, technologies or practices for efficient water use and for reduction of water loss and waste or for reducing a Withdrawal, Consumptive Use or Diversion that i) are environmentally sound, ii) reflect best practices applicable to the water use sector, iii) are technically feasible and available, iv) are economically feasible and cost effective based on an analysis that considers direct and avoided economic and environmental costs and v) consider the particular facilities and processes involved, taking into account the environmental impact, age of equipment and facilities involved, the processes employed, energy impacts and other appropriate factors."

Under Wis. Stat. § 281.346(f)(6), "[t]he applicant [must] commit[] to implementing the applicable water conservation measures under sub. (8)(d) that are environmentally sound and economically feasible for the applicant."

There are additional conservation requirements required under Wis. Stat. § 281.346(5m). Wis. Stat. § 281.346(8)(d) directs the WDNR to issue rules "specifying water conservation and efficiency measures for the purposes of implementing [the statewide program]."

Once again, it is unclear how WDNR can decide whether New Berlin has committed to implementing such measures when the agency has not issued rules.

The City’s application does not incorporate reasonable environmentally sound and economically feasible water conservation measures to minimize water withdrawal. Water conservation is hardly mentioned in the application materials. While addressing most significant issues, an application document titled The Water Supply

Service Area Plan contains neither existing nor proposed water conservation practices.

No Demonstration That A Portion Of Diversion Can Be Avoided

Because the City’s water conservation plans have not been fully developed – and in fact are still in the planning stages – it is probable that part of the demand for Lake Michigan water might be reasonably avoided. Compact provision 4.9(4)(a) states that an exception (allowing a diversion) can be granted to a straddling community “only when…the need for all or part of the proposed Exception cannot be reasonably avoided (emphasis added).” It is probable that some portion of the Lake Michigan diversion request might reasonably be avoided because the City has implemented few basic water conservation best practices.

Switch To Lake Water in 2005 Does Not Constitute Water Conservation

A 3/9/09 letter from Steven Schultz of Ruekert/Mielke addresses questions raised by Eric Ebersberger of the WDNR. Question #2 raises the water conservation issue. The reply includes a graph of per capita water use from 2000 through 2007, citing a decline of about 10 percent.

This decline is attributed to several factors, including some outdoor limitations on watering and a water conservation education program. Also listed, and more pertinent, is the reduction in water softener use in the eastern portion of the City since the 2005 switch to Lake Michigan water. The chart reveals that most improvement in per capita use occurred since 2005, and the reply admits it is probably largely due to the reduction in the use of water softeners.

A declining use in water softener backwashing will lead to significant water savings and a decline in per capita use. But it is a one-time savings that is not a water conservation program practice.

Reliance On Unspecified SEWRPC Water Conservation Assumptions

The City cites the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) regional water supply plan and its alternatives analysis, which assumes increasing levels of water conservation that could reduce consumption by up to 10 percent. The City indicates that it will consider implementation of water conservation practices in keeping with the SEWRPC plan.

But the SEWRPC plan recently presented for public comment does not include information on best management practices that might achieve that level of reduction.

Stormwater Management Practices Are Not Exception Standard Conservation Practices
Attached to the 3/9/09 letter is a copy of a draft water conservation plan prepared by City staff. It includes a recitation of many water conservation practices undertaken in the City.

While these programs are commendable, and improve the water quality and hydrologic health of water in the environment, they are primarily storm water management practices that do not impact potable water consumption and water withdrawal.

Water Conservation Plan Must Precede Diversion

The 3/9/09 letter also cites the on-going efforts of the City to develop a water conservation plan, starting with their staff’s draft. Mr. Schultz’s reply includes minutes of a New Berlin Utility Committee meeting from September, 2008 and notes that this: “…shows the Committee’s willingness to deal with conservation issues in a more aggressive manner following completion of the Lake Michigan water project (emphasis added).”

The City has the sequence backwards and must define a meaningful water conservation program as a part of its application and must commit to its implementation as a condition of approval to satisfy the requirement of Compact section 4.9(4)(a).
The only meaningful conservation measures in the application are existing limitations on outdoor water use and an education program.

The application commits to the implementation of no additional specific practices. While the staff’s draft water conservation program suggests many demand-side practices, the only mention of supply-side practices is a brief suggestion for a leak detection program. Supply-side conservation practices can have a significant impact on reducing water use, as well as enhancing City revenues.

It is important for the City to proceed with and complete the current public process for developing a water conservation program that includes demand-side management practices. A participative process will lead to better implementation.

However, the City can define and commit to numerous supply-side water conservation best management practices immediately.

These can be unilaterally implemented by the City’s water utility without the active participation of the public, and include but are not limited to: conducting annual water audits to determine the amount of unbilled water; an on-going water meter testing and replacement program that specifies the replacement interval for water meters; a leak detection program that is on-going and specifies the time interval for incrementally testing the entire distribution system; and a water main replacement program tied to the leak detection program as well as to a commitment to replace the distribution system over a specified time period.

It is a serious deficiency in the City’s application that the water conservation program is not in place so it can be reviewed for its adequacy as a part of the City’s diversion application.

Ecological Improvement (Restoration) Measures Are Insufficient

In approving the Compact, the states agreed to protect, conserve, restore, improve and effectively manage Great Lakes resources (emphasis added).

In considering this first application for a diversion, and to meet that obligation, it is critical to establish that approvals for diversions be accompanied by a restorative action that is in addition to those that are unavoidable consequences of receiving and returning Great Lakes water.

All environmental benefits cited by the City are such unavoidable consequences.

The City should be required to make an affirmative restorative commitment to a resource in the basin.

Conclusion

The City of New Berlin’s application is gravely deficient in meeting the water efficiency and conservation requirements of the Exception Standard.

And it provides no restorative effect other than unavoidable consequences. All of those who worked to draft and approve the Compact, all of those who worked to pass implementing legislation in Wisconsin, and all of those anticipating the benefits of Compact implementation deserve better.

We request that the WDNR, before further consideration of the application, 1) require the submission of a meaningful water conservation program and a commitment for program implementation, 2) ensure that the applicant meets the requirements under Wis. Stat. § 281.346(5) for an individual permit, and 3) require a commitment to an affirmative restorative action to a resource in the basin. We also think it is a mistake to proceed with the review and approval of diversion applications without developing related rules and regulations called for in Wisconsin’s implementing legislation.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. Should you have any questions about our comments, please contact Ed Glatfelter at 312-939-0838 x235 or eglatfelter@greatlakes.org.

Sincerely,


F. Edward Glatfelter
Water Conservation Program Director
Alliance for the Great Lakes


Marc Smith
Great Lakes State Policy Manager
National Wildlife Federation

And on behalf of the following:

James Clift
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council


Gary Botzek
Executive Director
Minnesota Conservation Federation

Kristy Meyer
Agriculture and Water Director
Ohio Environmental Council



Virginia Rediscovers Street Grid, Cost Savings

Virginia has decided that suburban cul-de-sacs waste money, and that road-building drains budgets.

This is New Urbanism And Policy Sanity 101.

Talkers Go Around The Bend

Records for ridiculous rhetoric were set Tuesday, as right-wing radio ranters blasted Barack Obama in the wake of changes at General Motors and Chrysler forced by the government that has rescued the companies with billions of tax dollars.

Sean Hannity, professional demagogue, yelled "shut up, shut up" as he overrode an Obama sound bite Hannity had ordered his producers to play, then twice called Obama "an idiot," and declared the President "the Mussolini of our times."

No doubt many listeners under the age of 60 had no clue to the reference.

Mark Belling, bemoaning the fate of GM investors, tried to draw an analogy between what he sees as the US public's acquiescence to Obama's decisions and the passivity of the German public as Hitler rose to power.

And there is a steady drumbeat on right-wing talk radio as talkers and callers repeatedly call Obama a socialist, a communist, a dictator, an American Hugo Chavez, and so forth.

Obama has been President for less than 100 days, and talk radio is already in full campaign mode.

How are the talkers going to survive four-to-eight years of an Obama presidency?

Actually, I know the answer: swimmingly, as Obama is great for their ratings.

SEWRPC Committee Provides Blueprint For Agency Replacement: A Milwaukee-Centered Commission

A relatively obscure but important advisory committee of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) offers a tantalizing road map to get Milwaukee and an urban agenda to the center of regional planning in this area.

As things stand today, SEWRPC is composed of seven counties - - Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth - - with each county holding thres unelected commissioner seats on the SEWRPC governing board.

SEWRPC's direction is heavily suburban and exurban.

Its management and staffing is overwhelmingly white; its offices are located in an upscale Waukesha County suburb, and recent SEWRPC planning and hiring decisions have led frustrated organizations and others to file two separate discrimination complaints against the agency.

The City of Milwaukee, with a population greater than each of Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth Counties, has no commissioners, and thus is in a taxation-without-representation relationship with SEWRPC because City of Milwaukee taxpayers provide about $400,000 annually for SEWRPC operations through their Milwaukee County taxes.

Last June, I proposed in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday Crossroads op-ed that Milwaukee - - the city, or County, or both - - use available processes in state statutes to leave SEWRPC and create a more urban-focused planning body.

Dane County and the City of Madison share planning activities, for example, in a planning commission that performs all the tasks that SEWRPC is empowered to do, but in a more equitable structure.

And the legislature changed the Dane County format a few years ago, so there is precedent for reworking the shape of a state-authorized planning commission when there is the will to get it done.

There was the predictably dismissive response to my op-ed in a subsequent Crossroads op-ed signed by several regional county officials, but the City of Milwaukee Common Council approved unanimously a resolution that asked the state legislature to approve basic representational changes to SEWRPC's structure, and if that did not occur, requests the creation of a new planning organization with Milwaukee and urban priorities front-and-center.

Though the exact mechanics and details of a new entity have yet to be formally debated, and you could configure it in many different ways, it's important to note that one powerful SEWRPC advisory committee - - in structure and function - - already provides some important clues about how to better organize planning and public spending with Milwaukee and an urban agenda as the core.

The endlessly-titled "Intergovernmental Coordinating And Advisory Committee On Transportation System Planning And Programming For The Milwaukee Urbanized Area" does just that.

Let's call it for the purposes of this argument the Committee.

And it's an important Committee, because it has the power to authorize how federal transit and highway money, and now, stimulus money also, are spent in the Milwaukee area.

Here is the map that reflects where the transportation stimulus funds should go.

Clearly, Milwaukee is its appropriate focus.

With transportation being a key element in true, comprehensive regional planning because of its linkages to land-use, housing, development and other planning basics, why not use the Committee as a model for the creation of a new regional planning body?

It has 19 members - - this link to its structure does not account for three current vacancies - - but unlike the SEWRPC governing body, is based on population, including these representatives:

Five from Milwaukee County;

Two from Milwaukee County's Western Suburbs;

Two from Milwaukee County's North Shore communities;

One from Milwaukee County's South Shore communities;

Five from the City of Milwaukee;

One from Waukesha County;

Two from Waukesha County cities, villages and towns;

One from Ozaukee and Washington Counties.

A Milwaukee area planning commission that is based on the Committee model provides a reasonable basis upon which to provide planning and related spending in the area - - the Milwaukee area - - because it improves upon the arbitrarily-drawn seven-county SEWRPC map that disenfranchises urban populations, and Milwaukee residents, but takes their money.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Without Community Input, SEWRPC Will Hire PR Manager

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is closer to hiring an outreach/public relations manager, but in its reliably ironic and tone-deaf manner, has not included in the process any input from...its existing outreach advisory group known as the Environmental Justice Task Force.

The Task Force was formed in 2007 to help the agency overcome outreach deficiencies noted by federal reviewers during the agency's contentious 2004 public certification hearing.

SEWRPC prefers these closed-door, in-house hiring procedures; its 2008 closed-loop hiring of Deputy Director Ken Yunker as Executive Director was a perfect example, and it looks like the agency is going down the same, self-defeating path as it hires an outreach manager without reaching out to its outreach advisory committee.

Groups Urge Rule-Making Prior To Great Lakes Diversions; DNR Flinching

A coalition of statewide conservation and environmental groups documented deficiencies in New Berlin's application for a Lake Michigan diversion, but the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - the agency reviewing what is the first such application under the new Great Lakes Compact - - signalled Tuesday that it could review New Berlin's plan without first writing administrative rules covering the diversion approval process.

This would be a severe blow to Great Lakes regional cooperation, as the other states are looking to Wisconsin to handle the New Berlin application, and Waukesha's probable request later this year, with the highest level of resource management, legal and scientific skills imaginable.

A rush to approval is unnecessary, and a dreadful precedent.

Let's hope the DNR comes to its senses, requires New Berlin to clean up the deficiencies catalogued in the groups' comments, and takes the time to have rules and procedures in place for New Berlin's application and those to follow.

Groups Call New Berlin Water Diversion Plan Incomplete, Confusing, Deficient

A dozen environmental and conservation groups told the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in written comments that New Berlin's proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan had poor documentation, insufficient water conservation measures and other major deficiencies.

A copy of the groups' statement is here. Similar comments were submitted separately by two national groups.

Even more unsettling: the DNR has yet to say whether it will carryout rule-making to guide the application review, and the review of subsequent applications, or will rely instead on case-by-case analyses without over-arching rules.

Milwaukee Water Privatization Initiative Could Prove Costly

I reported on this blog last week - - and I have yet to see followup in the mainstream media - - that Milwaukee's comptroller is advertising for a contractor to take over the management of Milwaukee's Water Works.

There is very readable and accessible expert opinion out there suggesting that such initiatives can prove costly, which is exactly the opposite of the goals of the Milwaukee comptroller.

I also reported on this blog two weeks ago - - and, again, I see nothing in the way of reporting on this by traditional media - - that Waukesha is pursuing $87 million in federal grants and earmarks to finance its eventual diversion of water from Lake Michigan, and perhaps on some additional water projects elsewhere in Waukesha County, and in Milwaukee County, too.

Taken together, these are significant developments involving tens of millions of dollars that could determine the use and cost of water in Southeastern Wisconsin for the next 100 years.

And the direction of economic development throughout the region.

Sunlight, not darkness, is needed from the media about these fundamental issues.

Many Countries Have Tougher OWI Standards Than Wisconsin's 0.08

Peruse this worldwide listing of OWI standards and note that 0.05 BAC is a pretty common standard for operating while intoxicated.

And what happened to that big crackdown the legislature was going to approve after some high-profile fatal OWI wrecks last year?

So far, nothing, and the stories about repeat offenders and OWI homicides keep pouring in.

For the record: in Wisconsin, you need five OWI convictions before you are looking at felony punishment, and we are alone in the country treating a first offense as a non-criminal ticketing-only offense.

While first offenders have to pay a fine and deal with some troublesome financial and administrative hassles, Wisconsin law coddles first-time-caught drunk drivers with inadequate penalties, education and treatment requirements - - an enabling, official tap on the wrist that makes repeat offending more likely.

The result: an endangered motoring public, and ridiculously high death toll. 42% of all fatal car crashes in Wisconsin are alcohol-related.

Here is one Wisconsin website dedicated to OWI legal reforms, in memory of Jennifer Bukosky, one of the state's most high-profile victims.

Bukosky, her daughter, and unborn child were killed in a Waukesha County crash last spring by a repeat offender, allegedly high on drugs, who was out on bail awaiting incarceration for a previous OWI conviction.

City, County, UW-M Spar Over Engineering Campus Site

The problem with the proposed site at the County Grounds is that once you are there, there's no there there.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Dollars To Repair Little-Used Bridges

The Journal Sentinel documents the perverse relationship between usage and spending when it comes to stimulus-funded bridge repairs.

Two National Groups Call New Berlin's Diversion Application Incomplete

New Berlin's application to divert Lake Michigan water to a portion of the city outside of the Great Lakes basin has yet to receive final approval by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; the first set of detailed comments rolling in from two major environmental organizations that helped create the governing Great Lakes Compact find fundamental problems with New Berlin's application.

Details here.

The groups filing the critical comments are the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The critique echoes earlier comments filed by a number of groups when New Berlin first began drafting its plan - - insufficient conservation measures, for example - -a serious matter since conservation is a requisite for diversion approvals under the 2008, eight-state Compact.

New Berlin's application - - the first under review since the Compact was approved - - needs only Wisconsin's approval because part of the municipality is within the Great Lakes basin.

An application for a significantly larger amount of water that is expected later this year from Waukesha would require the approval of all the Great Lakes states because the entire municipality is outside the basin.

That application will generate more controversy because, to date, Waukesha has indicated it wants to discharge some treated wastewater from Lake Michigan to a creek in Wauwatosa, while also sending some of that discharge away from the Great Lakes basin via the Fox River.

The Wauwatosa discharge could raise the creek's level and change its biochemistry; the discharge into the Fox River appears to violate a basic tenet of the Compact, which is that minus a factor for consumption, all water removed from the Great Lakes must be returned to its basin.

The Fox River flows into the Mississippi River, then into the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to these legal and environmental issues, Waukesha will have to convince the City of Milwaukee - - the most likely seller - - that a diversion will not speed up economic activity in Waukesha, thus adding to sprawl and the transfer of jobs and capital away from land-locked Milwaukee.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wisconsin Enviro Lawyer Goes Nuclear

Wow.
Xoff has the story.

Don't think there isn't a plan to get nukes back in construction here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pabst Farms Mall Delay Continues; Why Did The State Spend $9 Million Already On The Mall's Interstate Interchange?

The Pabst Farms Mall groundbreaking isn't happening - - there isn't even a development plan filed with the City of Oconomowoc yet - - so tell me again why the state Department of Transportation already shoveled $9 million for land acquisition and other costs for an Interchange to the suspended mall project?

Was this a way to get some money to Pabst Farms, where subdivisions have been suspended, too?

Going Dark For An Hour Saturday Night Is A Worldwide Teach-In

People the world over, including right here in Milwaukee, are agreeing to shut off their electricity for an hour to demonstrate energy savings through collective action.

Details here.

Talk radio has been mocking this now-annual event, but they seem to forget that the air we will make cleaner and the fuels we will save - - in what is clearly a symbolic gesture - - benefits them, too.

30% Of City And County Seats On Stimulus Funding Body Unfilled, And More Interesting Facts

Inquiring readers of this blog have asked: who exactly is on the committee managed by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission that has the power to distribute $83 million in federal stimulus funding:

A list is here.

Some highlights:

Scott Walker, who has twisted himself into knots explaining if, and when, and under what circumstances, he might accept stimulus funds, has put himself on the committee as one of five Milwaukee County reps.

But there are two County vacancies, according to a paper handout distributed at the 3/20 meeting, SEWRPC records show.

The City of Milwaukee has one of its five seats unfilled.

The committee has 19 members, a number chosen to represent the Milwaukee urbanized area by population.

Final Question: If population is the way to run a SEWRPC committee that distributes federal funding, why isn't the same formula used to manage the entire commission, rather than the three-votes per county formula.

More about that later.

All the suburban and out-county seats are filled.

Walker's Folly: County Board Will Prevail In Stimulus Struggle

So in the end, Milwaukee's County Board has the votes to override Scott Walker's opposition to federal stimulus funding.

As I urged on this blog weeks ago.

Some endgame you were playing there, Mr. County Executive - - taking a drubbing from the County Board after embracing a variety of shifting, made-up-as-it-went-along positions against stimulus funding - - sorta - - that were internally and politically illogical, and as we see now: self-defeating.

As I have said on this blog - - in this farcical exercise, Walker has wounded himself through ideological rigidity and an addictive allegiance to talk radio.

Here is the truth about the talkers.

They just talk. They do not govern, or make decisions, or shoulder responsibility for policy and for voters - - especially the elderly, the poor and the unemployed - - who need action and leadership and judgement to help them live their lives.

County government has enough problems without self-inflicted, willful, mean-spirited penury, which is the position Walker was willing to take to curry favor with a few conservative talk show hosts.

And to move forward his increasingly dazed goal of unseating Jim Doyle.

After this charade, are you kidding me?

The stimulus money will come to Milwaukee County, as it should, though probably delayed, and perhaps, like the federal transit money that was 10% and $9 million less through similar Walker inaction, in smaller amounts.

All in all, not Walker's finest hour politically, but certainly one of his most revealing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

John Norquist Pitches The Street Grid

Forget dollar and fuel wasting cul-de-sacs and city-splitting Interstates: it's the street grid that works.

Unlike Its Highway Counterpart, Federal Labor Agency Officials Recognize Milwaukee, Area Economic Distress

I had noted yesterday that for reasons know only to people at the Federal Highway Administration, its data indicated that there was no poverty in Southeastern Wisconsin, and since such numbers are in the process for determining where stimulus dollars are headed, the bad data were not helping get money into the Milwaukee area's economically-troubled communities.

A commenter on that blog posting copied two US Department of Labor sites with more accurate data, so I am posting them here - -

http://www.doleta.gov/Programs/lsa.cfm

http://www.doleta.gov/Programs/pdf/lsajurisdictions09.pdf

- - to help get the data and an awareness of where to find the numbers into the decision-making processes.

Daily Reporter Explains Stimulus Funding Complexities

Nice piece by Dustin Block.

Basically, the rules are being misinterpreted and low-income areas like Milwaukee are getting shafted in stimulus decisions.

Parking Meter Rates Up In Milwaukee; Worse In Chi-Town

Yeah, parking meter rates are up in downtown and the Third Ward. I got nailed twice recently by meter readers who must have been equipped with cloaking devices.

A quarter gets you ten minutes now - - and I sympathize with recession-plagued merchants who are trying to woo customers in the front doors - - but in Chicago, that quarter gets you five minutes, and people there are dealing with it via sledgehammers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here's Betting That UW-M Climate Change Research Will Be Distorted By Righty Talkers

The climate change report should be analyzed and understood, not politicized, but I'm betting that talk radio and the righty bloggers will distort it.

Pining Away For The Good Old Days...

When there were no new-fangled ideas, like zoning and planning.

Walker, Again, On His Stimulus 'Thinking'

Scott Walker explains for the umteenth time while he won't ask for stimulus funds.

We'll, maybe some.

If they meet some conditions.

Why the need to keep saying what he really meant?

An old maxim in politics: when you are explaining what you really really really meant, you are losing.

Milwaukee May Lease Water Works Management

I dropped the word "management" from the title in the original posting a few hours ago, and corrected that title, too. Sorry.

Feds Say There Is No Poverty In Southeastern Wisconsin

The Federal Highway Administration's county-by-county map shows poverty in Wisconsin's northern and rural areas, but not in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Here is the national map, showing Wisconsin's counties. Note all the blue - - no economic distress - - in southeastern Wisconsin.

Remember: these are among the agencies vetting and passing out federal stimulus funds, and economically-distressed areas are supposed to get funding priority.

City Of Milwaukee May Lease Its Water Works Management

Wally Morics, Milwaukee's Comptroller and independent, elected official, has issued a request for proposals to lease the management of the city's Water Works "in order to provide the City with a stable source of revenue," according information posted on the Comptroller's website, here.

Such an agreement is in place that has privatized the management of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, but not its property.

Bidders would provide estimates of the Water Works value, along with related engineering and legal costs, for a 99-year lease, with approvals required by the Common Council, records show.

The proposal deadline is April 9th.

Given the value of water assets and public facilities, the proposal could attract attention from major consulting, management and resource companies nationally, abnd beyond.

More later.

Bill Christofferson Puts Wisconsin On Nuclear Alert

Years ago, Bill Christofferson coordinated Nukewatch, a statewide effort to raise awareness about the risks of nuclear power generation.

In fact, we did a little work on this together when we both lived in Madison - - about a thousand years ago.

Anyway: Good thing Bill is still an organizer.

In addition to his ongoing work work for peace in Iraq, Bill took to the pages of Crossroads, the Journal Sentinel's Sunday opinion section and put readers on notice that nuclear power is back on the table for consideration in Wisconsin.

Though the basic safety, financial and environmental problems that have plagued nuclear power generation for decades - - that's why no nuclear power plants have been built or approved anywhere in the US for a long, long time - - nukes worked their way through political compromise into the final recommendations approved by Governor's Task Force on Global Warming.

With the endorsement of both industry leaders and environmental groups and activists.

We'll hear a lot more about this in the months and years to come, but if you thought nuclear power in the US, or in Wisconsin, was dead and buried after the Three Mile Island meltdown, think again.

Freeman To Kill Monday Print Edition; I Expect To See More Of This

Papers will shuck off their Saturday editions, too.

Here's An Overlooked Milwaukee Stimulus Proposal That Meets All The Criteria

First-round stimulus funding for transportation projects have to meet these criteria:

Must be shovel-ready.

Must be completed by 2010.

Must be on a roadway that is a federal highway (and that rule is apparently being broadened to include some additional, high-traffic roads).

Milwaukee didn't get any first-round projects allegedly because there were no such road projects eligible - - but somehow everyone missed the need to repair the northern approach of I-794 and then its continuation over the Hoan Bridge.

It's shovel-ready because the holes in the pavement are ready to be filled.

It's a federal highway.

And you wouldn't need to do any fancy preliminary engineering or study because the damage is visible and obvious. It drives like it's been mortared.

I seem to remember that the bridge is a county responsibility, and that Scott Walker has thumbed his nose at stimulus funding.

My guess is that he would change his mind if he drove the route, and if he's still dopey enough to refuse to fill out the paperwork, the County Board, or perhaps the City of Milwaukee should appropriate the process.

This approach to Milwaukee, the lakefront, the Calatrava, and the Summerfest grounds is a beautiful and important gateway to the City.

If the road isn't repaired, the authorities should post warning signs and re-post the speed limit to 15 MPH.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SEWRPC Leadership Reverses Course; Now Supports Wider Water Study Analysis

A division between the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and its Environmental Justice Task Force over how studies are constructed and carried out appears resolved.

Ken Yunker, the SEWRPC Executive Director, told Tuesday's Task Force meeting that SEWEPC's staff now supports adding to the draft water supply study and recommendations an independent socio-economic analysis that the Task Force requested be included last year, but to which then-Executive Director Phil Evenson objected.

Evenson had told the Task Force that he was "insulted" by its vote approving the requested independent analysis.

I attended the meeting where the exchange took place, and blogged about it, here.

This may seem like inconsequential inside baseball, but in fact it will substantially improve SEWRPC recommendations and ameliorate long-standing complaints that SEWRPC studies, especially those started and finished in-house, lacke vitality, innovation, credibility and appeal.

It's also a victory for the Task Force and grassroots citizen participation at an agency that has had its outreach problems.

It made no sense to me that SEWRPC would fight with a Task Force it had created following a federal certification review in 2004 - - a review that said SEWRPC needed to do a better job reaching out to communities that felt ignored by SEWRPC procedures.

With the 2008 federal quadrennial review still open, and with criticism of the agency's management, governing structure and funding gaining steam over housing, transit, highway spending and affirmative action, I'm guessing that cooler heads - - or perhaps those who are more politically aware or astute - - are prevailing at the agency.

That's speculation, but it rings true.

Twenty-five months ago, in one of the first postings on this blog - - and 260 of them are focused on SEWRPC and its institutional shortcomings - - I took note of the agency's troubled outreach activities.

Maybe things are changing, these 25 months later:

Monday, February 26, 2007
ACLU Slaps SEWRPC Over Pulseless Outreach

The Wisconsin ACLU, from its Milwaukee offices, has rightly told the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission that the agency is moving far too slowly with the formation of a task force on environmental justice.

SEWRPC has had months to get this outreach effort underway but has not made task force appointments and is not aggressively getting input on appointees from communities to whom this long-overdue outreach effort is aimed, the ACLU says in its new release.

With its laissez-faire approach, SEWRPC is skating on thin ice with watchdog groups like the ACLU, and federal regulators who could use federal civil rights to light a fire under SEWRPC, as the ACLU further reminds SEWRPC by letter.

The Pewaukee-based agency already has minimal credibility with large sections of the region because of its pro-suburban history, and giving the task force formation a low priority only reinforces SEWRPC's negative image.

At this very moment, SEWRPC and other entities are discussing major changes to transit and water management policies that will guide development in the region for generations, and will therefore profoundly impact low-income residents.

Yet those residents are regularly shut out of many of these policy discussions - - a problem the environmental justice task force could help remedy.

If SEWRPC had a comprehensive planning strategy and a more inclusive mentality, it wouldn't need an environmental justice task force in the first place: its commissioners and multiple committees would have integrated genuine environmental justice principles and goals into all their work as a matter of routine.

For example, if environmental justice were an important thread in SEWRPC operations, its last housing plan for our heavily-segregated region wouldn't have been done in 1975, and SEWRPC would have been a champion for transit expansion, not $6.6 billion in new, suburb-serving freeways lanes.

It's a disgrace that community groups representing low-income and minority populations had to demand a task force in the first place, and reprehensible that SEWRPC continues to drag its feet on its implementation.
OK: back to the water study:

SEWRPC officials who guided the three-year water study have said repeatedly that the region has no water supply crisis, so slowing down the study's approval and making it more complete by studying and documenting the effect of water transfers on housing, transportation, job development and other related matters makes all the sense in the world.

Yunker told the Task Force meeting that he saw no reason why the agency's governing body - - a 21-member panel appointed by the Governor and officials from the region's seven counties - - should object to the staff recommendation that the independent socio-economic analysis be added.

It was not made clear at the Task Force meeting how the socio-economic analysis would be added to the study, or who would perform the work.

The Task Force resolution from last October recommended that all SEWRPC studies include an independent socio-economic analysis.

Given the willingness to add the level of analysis to the water supply study, it seems logical to assume that all studies will contain these elements.

SEWRPC Certification Report Delayed, Official Says

Federal officials conducted their quadrennial certification review of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in October, and the report was to be done this month, but Carlos Pena from the Madison office of the Federal Highway Administration sends this update in answer to an email inquiry:

"The draft of the report has been distributed for review by all the required channels. However, given the short period for implementation of the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the limited resources available to some of the reviewers we anticipate the final report to be ready for distribution sometime within the next two months."

Federal certification permits SEWRPC to approve certain federal transportation spending in its seven-county region.

SEWRPC is already reviewing and approving some stimulus-funded projects.

The 2004 review found deficiencies in SEWRPC's outreach efforts, leading to the creation in 2007 of an Environmental Justice Task Force, a SEWRPC-staffed body that is supposed to serve as a contact point for low-income, minority and disadvantaged communities not well-served by SEWRPC.

The Task Force has had a rocky relationship with SEWRPC, which has declined suggestions that the agency allow it a role in the hiring of an executive director in 2008 and delay the pending water supply study recommendations until socio-economic analyses could be added to evaluate water diversions and related recommendations on Task Force constituencies.

Coincidentally, the Task Force meets today at the Mitchell Airport Conference Room, at 4 p.m., with SEWRPC covering parking fees for any attendee.

Milwaukee County Government Is Wisconsin's AIG

Think about it: Milwaukee County, with financial/policy connections and implications affecting every taxpayer in Milwaukee, the county, the state - - and even beyond - - is facing debt and other costs that are unsustainable, according to yet another authoritative report - - this time produced by the respected, non-partisan Public Policy Forum of Wisconsin.

The study was paid for by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and nicely reported upon by Steve Schultze in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, here.

A link to the full study is here.

It concludes that without radical solutions, crisis looms.

Yes, the County's house of cards was built for years under the mutually-inefficient tenures of former Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament, and his allies on the county board, with their calamitous pension and benefit grab that cost them their careers - - and we taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in continuing and unproductive taxation.

But Scott Walker, elected in 2002 to clean things up following Ament's recall and similar ousting of many supervisors, has made things worse through right wing ideologically-driven inaction and an unwillingness to coordinate with state and city government, or the private sector, or frankly anyone except his talk radio buddies.

Leadership and crisis management demands more than an occasional email and phone call to a conservative call-in program that inevitably turns to political posturing against Gov. Jim Doyle.

Look no farther than Walker's foolish resistance to splitting equally with the City of Milwaukee $91.5 million in available federal funds for transit projects.

After years of self-defeating obstinacy by Walker, Mayor Tom Barrett convinced Congress to divvy up the funds, and Walker got $9 million less than what was on the table in Barrett's original 50-50 offer.

Nearly a year ago to the day, I posted a commentary that argued Walker should not be rewarded by the Journal Sentinel with another election endorsement.

And I said the county was teetering towards bankruptcy.

Here we are, a year later, and seven years after Walker's occupancy of the county;s top job - - and ruin is on the horizon.

What is Walker's preoccupation?

Positioning himself for a 2010 gubernatorial run through the Republican Party's conservative base in Waukesha and Ozaukee Counties, and in the Fox Valley and northern Wisconsin, Walker made a big show of turning down federal stimulus funding for his failing county government and struggling constituents.

Yet local leaders, aware of the county's fiscal realities laid out in the Forum report and earlier studies and news stories, are talking about the need for state intervention to keep Milwaukee County afloat.

These days, we call that a bailout.

What will Walker do if the recession and continuing legal and financial county obligations so badly imperil the delivery of services and the county's bond rating that only outside intervention could stave off insolvency?

It's clear that Walker's plan is to escape the crumbling county house of cards by moving on up to the Governor's Mansion.

That would be like putting AIG's former CEO in The White House.

Unthinkable.

He Had Eight OWI's, So Why Was He Motoring Around To Get #9?

Here's why:

Mequon thought arrest #8 was merely arrest #1, and issued the repeat/repeat/repeat/repeat/repeat/repeat/repeat/repeat offender that famous Wisconsin citation for a first offense.

Now he's back in jail, after arrest #9, which can get you 10 years in prison, which, by the way, you can get for an 8th conviction - - skated past in this case due to Mequon's rinky-dink prosecution..

Here is the state OWI penalty chart.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Alberta Darling, River Hills, Hit Political Pothole

Hats off to SEWRPC - - yes, you heard me - - for delaying the delivery of stimulus funding to an unworthy project in upscale River Hills, and similar kudos to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, blogger Gretchen Schuldt and the ACLU for arguing that stimulus funding needs to be spent with jobs and diversity in mind.

Pressure matters.

Federal stimulus funding - - regardless of Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling's foot-stomping on behalf of her hometown constituents - - should be targeted at lower-income communities, which rightly leaves River Hills far down the list.

You'd think Darling would be nicer to SEWRPC.

The agency did her a favor some years back when it took off the table during freeway expansion planning "The Northern Bypass," the very kind of wide, gaudy high-speed concrete ribbon Darling backed through Milwaukee neighborhoods.

The Northern Bypass would have connected I-43 and State Highway 45, east-to-west, in Darling's legislative backyard.

Dam Removal, UW-M Site Hearings Tuesday, Wednesday

There are public hearings galore in Milwaukee this week - - a big week for participatory democracy, and for the suits to hear what taxpayers and other regular folk really want.

Monday it was a DNR hearing on how to get invasive species out of Lakes Michigan and Superior.

(Solution: since the feds have been indecisive, let the Department put into place a plan to require ocean-going freighters' to flush and clean their ballast tanks without infecting the Great Lakes, and to implement additional safeguards to restore the lakes' quality.)

Then later this week, there are hearings on additional important environmental and developmental issues, including whether UW-Milwaukee should sprawl all over the County Grounds (No - - put the new UW-Milwaukee School of Engineering downtown, near Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and all of the city's amenities), to deciding whether to remove Estabrook Dam (Yes, of course.).

You want a restored Milwaukee River?

A preserved County Grounds?

An enhanced downtown?

Less induced traffic congesting as it moves cross-town from the main UW-Milwaukee East side campus to the County Grounds, where it makes no sense to plop down an entire college?

These decisions speak to the kind of city, county and local environment we can enjoy and pass down to the next generation - - so get involved, and speak up.

Decision-makers need to see full hearing rooms, and to hear from people expressing themnselvs.

The DNR hearing was packed Monday.

Let's do the same Tuesday and Wednesday, too.

Details on both upcoming hearings, courtesy of Riverkeeper, here.

Talk Radio Was In Hyperdrive Against Obama Today - - Then The Dow Went up 500 Points

The talkers still squawked.

All day long.

Talk about bad timing, so to speak.

The DNR Will Take Comments For A Week On The Great Lakes Ballast Water Permit Plan

I went over to the DNR's regional headquarters on King Dr. Monday morning to leave a comment in support of the invasive species management plan the agency wants to establish to help restore the Great Lakes - - but there were no written-only comment forms available for this hearing.

If you registered, remarks were expected, and given the mob scene there, I couldn't take the time to wait.

A DNR employee at the hearing told me that comments for the record could be submitted through the DNR staffer who is the permit drafter.

That would be Paul Luebke, in Madison.

Here is his contact information taken off a DNR information sheet handed out at the hearing, which also says comments can be submitted for the record by the public for a week following the hearing.

1-608-266-0234; Paul.Luebke@wisconsin.gov; 101 S. Webster St., PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.

So weigh in and support the permit plan; details here.

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?

Third Coast Digest - - An Eclectic, Snappy Milwaukee Site

Jon Anne Willow has moved her journalism, culture and organizing skills to ThirdCoastDigest. Check it out.

Stimulus Stimulating Sprawl: Controls, Vigilance Required

Texas wants to spend big stimulus dollars on a new sprawl-serving toll road: Big surprise. Texas has giant toll road plans on the books, so stimulus funding offers a cheaper way to get them built.

So far, Wisconsin's transportation stimuls planning is a mixed bag. $97 million went out the door early to push along the I-94 north/south leg expansion and rebuilding from Milwaukee to Illinois, but Gov. Doyle is also pledging a major effort to launch high-speed rail in the state.

So far, no toll roads.

But I have yet to see any evidence that stimulus transportation spending in SE Wisconsin, where the state's low-income residents are concentrated, is targeted to aid low-income employment or transportation needs - - purportedly a stimulus priority.

We also have to make sure SEWEPC does not direct stimulus funds it controls to the Pabst Farms mall 'interchange to nowhere,' or other sprawl-serving road expansions in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has raised some of these issues.

More later.

Plan To Combat Invasive Species Gets Hearing Monday In Milwaukee

Monday is the day you can show your support at a hearing for a plan to prevent further damage to the Great Lakes by invasive species that are dumped into the water when ocean-going freighters flush their ballast tanks.

Even if you can't stay for the hearing - - details below - - stop by and register your support, as the shipping industry will show up, in force, in opposition.

Their position helped stymie a Congressional solution, so Wisconsin, to its credit, is trying to implement a plan that should help prevent further harm by mussels and other species to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

If you want cleaner beaches, more efficient lakefront industries and better boating and fishing, you need to come to the hearing.

Groups like the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation are organizing support for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' ballast water control proposal.

I will post the prepared remarks of WWF Executive Directror George Meyer at the bottom of this post.

The public hearing begins at 10 a.m. Monday at the DNR southeastern regional headquarters, 2300 N. Martin Luther King Dr., Milwaukee, in room 140.

There is free parking behind the building, and on local streets.

Here is a description of the plan.

And from George Meyer:

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation March 23, 2009

Testimony of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation in Support Of the WDNR’s General Discharge Permit Regulating the Discharge of Ballast Water into the Great Lakes

Good morning, my name is George Meyer and I am representing the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the state’s largest conservation organization, comprised of over 164 hunting, fishing, trapping, and forestry-related groups throughout the State of Wisconsin.

The Federation and virtually every conservation and environmental group in Wisconsin are very supportive of the proposed Department of Natural Resources General Permit WI-0063835-01-0 regulating the discharge of ballast water into the waters of the State of Wisconsin.

Sportsmen and women throughout the state cannot believe that thirty-seven years after the passage of the national and state Clean Water Acts, international ships are allowed to discharge their ballast water into the Great Lakes without any permit or effective treatment.

The results of these unregulated discharges are the presence of zebra mussels, quagga mussels, Eurasian Ruffe, round goby, white perch, spiny water flea, phragmites, possibly VHS and over 170 other invasive species that have devastated the Great Lakes ecosystem and its recreationally and economically important sports fishery.

We all have seen the results, the collapse of the salmon fishery in Lake Huron, the expenditure of over $1.5 billion in the last 20 years to deal with the clogging of water and discharge pipes, the loss of 93% of the forage base for Lake Michigan’s fishery and the severe fouling of our beaches just to name a few.

These invasive species just don’t stay in the Great Lakes, they infest our inland lakes and are transmitted throughout the country. Wisconsin sportsmen and women contribute over $80 million through licenses, stamps and excise taxes to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Account that is used to enhance and protect our fish and wildlife resources and their habitat.

These hunters, anglers and trappers see that same habitat devastated by the irresponsible actions of international ships discharging their ballast water into our waters.

I spend virtually all of my time talking and listening to the sportsmen and women in this state and when it comes to the discharge of ballast water from international ships, they say that: “We are fed up with it and we are not going to take it anymore.”

When will the shipping industry start acting responsibly and clean up its ballast water discharges? Hopefully it will be before the $ 7 billion a year Great Lakes fishery is totally collapsed. Every other industry or municipality in this state must treat their waste and protect the water quality of the state.

Why should the international shipping industry be free from comparable regulation?

Some argue that the technology is not there to meet the treatment standards in the proposed Wisconsin discharge permit. Without conceding that point, the Federation argues that is the purpose of the State and Federal Clean Water Acts.

I was involved as a young attorney in DNR in implementing the 1972 Federal Clean Water Act that required all industries and municipalities to treat their waste discharges. For the great majority of industries at that time, there was not available technology to meet the standards, but the requirement of the law drove the development of the technology.

When it comes to treatment of ballast water discharge, what entrepreneur is going to develop and produce the necessary technology unless it is required by law, it surely isn’t because the shipping industry has been demanding it on a voluntary basis.

We are very sensitive to the Duluth-Superior Harbor dilemma where potentially higher regulatory standards on the Superior side of the harbor could drive shipping to the Duluth side of the harbor.

The Federation does not want to see that occur. However the answer to that problem is not adopting the extremely weak standards advanced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, it is Minnesota adopting the Wisconsin standards. We applaud the National Wildlife Federation and our Minnesota counterpart, the Minnesota Conservation Federation and their legal efforts to bring the Minnesota permit in line with the permits in Wisconsin and New York.

Lastly, we all agree that strong federal regulation is preferable to state regulation and we applaud the efforts of Congressmen Oberstar and Obey, Senator Feingold and the remainder of the Wisconsin congressional delegation to seek the adoption of equally strong federal regulation.

However until that happens, and we have been disappointed for over twenty years, it is critically important for the State of Wisconsin to join the State of New York in adopting the proposed general permit for the discharge of ballast into the Wisconsin waters.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation thanks you for the opportunity to testify here today on this critically important issue.

Submitted by:

George Meyer
Executive Director
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

SEWRPC Faulted On Stimulus Decision-Making

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin continues to monitor transportation decision-making in the region, as it took the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to task last Friday for excluding the public, low-income and minority communities from meaningful participation in the allocation of millions in federal stimulus spending.

When will those folks at SEWRPC get it?

The ACLU last year filed two formal federal complaints - - still pending - - on behalf of several organizations about SEWRPC hiring procedures, advisory committee membership, and other actions the ACLU said discriminated against low-income and minority communities.

It also filed a separate complaint against the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on behalf of several organizations and individuals, raising, again, similar challenges to the State of Wisconsin's SEWRPC-blessed commitment of $1.9 billion to rebuild and widen I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line.

That eight-year plan is but a portion of a larger $6.5 billion regional freeway expansion and reconstruction scheme written for the state by SEWRPC planners that has not one dime for transit in its budget.

Some history on these complaints is here.

SEWRPC is a seven-county, 100% publicly-funded agency headquartered in the Western Waukesha City of Pewaukee. The agency has few minority professional staffers and no representatives from the City of Milwaukee on its 21-member governing board.

Without a voice or vote on the SEWRPC board - - though counties smaller than the city have three votes each - - it is up to organizations like the ACLU to constantly remind SEWRPC and the public that opaque planning and taxation without representation produces results that are exclusionary, dismissive of the public niterest, and technically deficient.

Recent comments forwarded to SEWRPC by the ACLU on behalf of legal and environmental organizations about the shortcomings of SEWRPC pro-suburban, sprawl-inducing waer supply recommendations, are here.

Here is the text of the letter about the SEWRPC stimulus meeting and decision-making precess:

March 20, 2009

Kenneth Yunker, Director
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
P.O. Box 1607
Waukesha, WI 53187-1607

ALSO TRANSMITTED ELECTRONICALLY TO: kyunker@sewrpc.org

RE: Comments on Stimulus Program Projects

Dear Mr. Yunker:

I just learned this morning that SEWRPC is today holding a meeting to address the issue of what programs should be funded with stimulus dollars. I was unable to attend the meeting on such short notice. Instead, I am submitting written comments.

The process for discussing the allocation of stimulus dollars, as well as, potentially, the allocation itself, appears to violate civil rights requirements. Please note that civil rights compliance requirements do apply to the stimulus program, including to the distribution of stimulus funds.

I strongly object to SEWRPC’s failure to comply with its public involvement program in general, to involve its Environmental Justice Task Force (which is meeting next week) in the process, or to ensure that diverse communities are involved in the decision making process. The notice of the meeting was not even posted on SEWRPC’s website until less than 24 hours before today’s meeting, no notice was sent to interested parties, and there is no public comment period at the meeting (or at any other stated time).

The SEWRPC Staff Memorandum entitled “Public Participation Plan for Transportation Planning Conducted by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission” explicitly states the following steps will be taken in transportation planning, none of which occurred here:

• Timely notification of, and provision of access to, Commission regional transportation planning and programming activities will be achieved to encourage early and continuous public participation.

• The purposes of the [Environmental Justice] Task Force include to further facilitate the involvement of low-income, minority, and disabled individuals and communities in regional planning; to make recommendations on issues and analyses relevant to the needs and circumstances of low-income, minority, and disabled communities; to help identify the potential benefits and adverse effects of public infrastructure and services addressed in regional planning programs with respect to minority, low-income, and disabled populations; to advise and recommend methods to prevent the denial of benefits, and to minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse negative impacts on minority, low-income, and disabled populations; . . .

• Beyond Commission efforts to notify and inform, and obtain input from, the general public, the Commission will seek opportunities to notify and inform, and obtain input from, those most likely to be impacted by transportation proposals. The Commission will, for example, contact community groups of an affected and concerned area, and offer briefings and presentations to those groups at meetings held expressly for that purpose or during regularly scheduled meetings of those groups. Outreach contacts and materials will be done in user-friendly, lay language. Outreach efforts will also particularly be made to notify and inform, and obtain input from, low-income and minority populations.

In addition, in the comments on the TIP that I submitted on March 16, 2009, and that I incorporate by reference herein, I addressed the fact that funds from the Highway Infrastructure Program are to be prioritized for projects in economically distressed communities.

These funds are available for transit development, as those comments also stated.

Those priorities should be applied in deciding which projects to fund with stimulus dollars. I also request that you provide me with copies of all records showing whether or how these issues were discussed or considered in any process of deciding what projects to support with stimulus funding.

Submitted by:

Karyn L. Rotker
Senior Staff Attorney

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rain Gardening, A Crime In Colorado, Illustrates Western Struggles Over Water Rights

Worth a read.

Frank Rich Warns That Bailout Mess Has Katrina Stature Politically

Brilliant political analysis by Frank Rich in The New York Times.

Will Waukesha Tax Rebellion Spill Over To Federal Funds, Earmarks' Requests

Conservative Waukesha activists are protesting Gov. Doyle's budget. Too much taxation and spending, they claim.

I guess they would want their Congressman - - that would be the tight-fisted Jim Sensenberenner (R) - - to block efforts to win earmarks and special funds and grants totalling up to $87 million to help pay for Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion and other area projects?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Business Journal Moving Downtown

Nice move.

Steak House Closing: Callers Using A SEWRPC Website Will Get Yet Another Wrong Customer

In December, I noted that information about a major bank in a SEWRPC-posted economic development profile of the City of Milwaukee was outdated because the bank had a new, post-merger corporate identity, but the SEWRPC information still showed the old bank's phone number - - a number assigned to Kincaid's, a new, upscale chop house in downtown Milwaukee.

I checked a month later, and the bad information was still there; callers looking to talk to the non-existent US Bank of Milwaukee were still going to get the restaurant instead.

Now we learn that Kincaid's is closing, so that old bank's phone number will be re-assigned to yet another Milwaukee-area customer.

It's a snappy number: 414-227-1111. You say you might want it, but do you want calls intended for a closed restaurant, and also a bank, thanks to a public agency that won't correct its webpages?

SEWRPC could disconnect itself from this confusion by correcting its information, but that would be acceding to some outside pressure, a practice not in its Standard Operating Procedures, apparently.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Doyle Trying To Engineer More Planned High-Speed Rail For Wisconsin

Glad to see this initiative.

Republicans will foolishly oppose it, and some Madisonians will not like the Dane County Airport station, as opposed to one downtown, but its a good plan and will offer more business to the Milwaukee-Chicago run.

Go for it.

Could Waukesha Legally Spend Federal Funds On A Great Lakes Diversion...

Or could the federal government even grant Waukesha money to use for a diversion - - study or implementing that study - - without the prior consent of all eight Great Lakes Governors, wonders water expert Dave Dempsey?

I disclosed Waukesha's Congressional efforts to obtain up to $87 million in federal funds for its probable Lake Michigan diversion and other water projects, perhaps involving Milwaukee County or city programs.

This is the language in the US Code restricting the use of federal funds relating to the study of the feasibility of diversions outside the Great Lakes basin that Dempsey cites:

Approval of Governors for diversion studies

No Federal agency may undertake any study, or expend any Federal funds to contract for any study, of the feasibility of diverting water from any portion of the Great Lakes within the United States, or from any tributary within the United States of any of the Great Lakes, for use outside the Great Lakes basin, unless such study or expenditure is approved by the Governor of each of the Great Lakes States. The prohibition of the preceding sentence shall not apply to any study or data collection effort performed by the Corps of Engineers or other Federal agency under the direction of the International Joint Commission in accordance with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.


TITLE 42, CHAPTER 19B, SUBCHAPTER IV § 1962d–20, U.S. Code

WisDOT Wants To Grab Land More Cheaply

A state budget proposal would make it more costly for landowners to fight the state transportation department if it seized land for a project.

Sneaky and arrogant.

Investigate Pabst Farms Interchange Spending

Eighteen months ago, I urged on this blog that there be a probe of the state's agreement to spend $21.3 million on an I-94 interchange to a mall at Pabst Farms that had not yet been built.

The spending seemed little more than a subsidy to serve one private property owner.

The project has been dropped by one developer, and picked up conceptually by another company that has substantially changed the design - - on paper - - from the original, upscale "lifestyle" center to an undistinguished group of planned big box and strip-mall chain stores.

Now, thanks to the outstanding reportorial work of Waukesha blogger Jim Bouman, we learn that with the project in limbo, and in an economy so bad that subdivision construction at Pabst Farms has been suspended, the state transportation department has already spent more than $8 million for land acquisition and other interchange planning and preparation expenses.

This is nothing less than a public subsidy to Pabst Farms and a maybe-mall builder, and cries out for an investigation - - especially as local communities like Milwaukee are being turned down for transportation stimulus project financing because projects are not "shovel-ready."

This is a horrible waste of precious public funds, and will pressure Oconomowoc to pony up $400,000 it once was assigned to spend on the project, as well as a similar $1.75 million expected from Waukesha County.

And has the mall developer put in its share of $1.75 million?

WisDOT was able to begin spending because the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission put the project on a fast-tracked eligibility list, so all the institutional power brokers in the region have had a role in this unfolding boondoggle.

Legislators should begin by asking the State Legislative Audit Bureau to probe the spending.

Now.

WisDOT Has Already Spent $8 Million On The Pabst Farms Interchange-To-Nowhere

Jim Bouman, intrepid Waukesha blogger, ferrets out some stunning news: WisDOT has already spent $8 million+ on the interchange to the once-canceled, twice-stalled, not-constructed shopping mall at Pabst Farms.

With the mall in limbo - - and already down-scaled from a glitzy "lifestyle" center to a collection of big box and cookie-cutter chain stores - - the audacity of WisDOT blowing off public dollars and input is jaw-dropping.

ACLU Posts Water/Justice Comments, Advancing Great Lakes Compact Discussion

The ACLU of Wisconsin is using its blog to post and circulate comments made by several organizations and legal experts on a regional water study in southeastern Wisconsin.

The comments are important for two reasons:

They explain the inadequacies of the water study and recommendations, that if followed, would encourage sprawl development, job migration, discriminatory housing patterns and other socio-economic problems in a seven-county region with the City of Milwaukee in its center.

A majority of Milwaukee residents are minorities, many of whom are also low-income, and cannot easily reach jobs in the predominantly white, higher-income suburban and out-county areas to which Lake Michigan water is recommended for diversion by the regional study.

The study was produced by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, a publicly-funded and federally-certified Municipal Planning Organization with the power to approve certain federally-financed transportation projects and to distribute federal funds, including new stimulus dollars.

Secondly, the comments offer a broader lens through which proposed diversions of water from the Great Lakes could be reviewed under the new, eight-state Great Lakes Compact.

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has an Environmental Justice Task Force; it asked the planning commission to slow down the final review of the water study so that intentional socio-economic analyses could be added, but the commission, to date, has declined the request.

The City of Milwaukee does not have a seat on the planning commission's 21-member board. Each of the seven member-counties has three seats, and some counties have fewer than one-third of Milwaukee's 600,000 residents.

Today Is The 6th Anniversary Of The Iraq Invasion

Bill Christofferson sends these reminders:

Friday, Mar. 20, is Iraq Moratorium day, and this one marks the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Please join us in Milwaukee if you can, at Water and Wisconsin, for a rush hour vigil from 5 to 6 p.m.

For a full list of Wisconsin events, use this link: http://iraqmoratoriumwis.blogspot.com/

Or do something yourself to call for an end to the occupation. For more on the national scene, go to www.iraqmoratorium.org

Saturday, join us for a rally and march at the Milwaukee County courthouse, 10th and Wells, at 1 p.m. Congresswoman Gwen Moore is among the speakers.

Right-Wing Blogger Will 'Greet' Obama Canvassers Armed With A .357 Magnum; Journal Sentinel Blogger Links To It Without Condemnation

When blogging goes too far...

Judgement missing, for sure.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Upscale River Hills Gets Only Milwaukee County 1st Round Stimulus Transportation Grant

Forget those potholes in the City of Milwaukee, or the Milwaukee County crumbling pavement (we're looking at you, Scott Walker):

The only community in the County to get a transportation grant of stimulus funds from the state: River Hills, one of the wealthiest communities in the state.

Getting It Right: New Challenge Filed With SEWRPC Over Its Water Study Plan

Nine environmental, conservation and community organizations, an attorney for the law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates, and State Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), have sent the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission a detailed critique of the agency's water supply study recommendations.

The heart of those recommendations: Lake Michigan water should be diverted to Waukesha, and several other communities.

The heart of the comments: the study and recommendations areincomplete, were based on an outdated regional land-use plan, and should be held, improved and considered only after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources establishes administrative rules that implement the Great Lakes Compact in Wisconsin.

The comments echo a document filed several days ago about the plan by the American Civil Liberties Union and other Wisconsin groups.

Taken together, the comments by these organizations and individuals indicate deep scientific and legal concern about the study; Over the years, Gov. Jim Doyle and others have emphasized that water diversion policy needs to be governed by science, which is another reason that SEWRPC needs to slow this process to get it right.

SEWRPC officials have said there is no water crisis in the region, and since a Lake Michigan diversion to Waukesha would create a precedent under the just-approved Compact, the onus is on the agency to be prudent, cautious, and complete - - and to take seriously the comment period, honoring the work that these groups have done in the public interest.

I am posting the comments below in text, rather than send you to another website's URL:

March 12, 2009

Robert Biebel
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
W239 N1812 Rockwood Drive
P.O. Box 1607
Waukesha, Wisconsin 53187-1607

RE: Comments on SEWRPC’s Preliminary Regional Water Supply Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin

Dear Mr. Biebel:

We are submitting public comments to identify three major failings of the SEWRPC Preliminary Regional Water Supply Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin (“Water Supply Plan”), which we are confident further study, evaluation and revisions could rectify.

I. The Water Supply Plan is Premised Upon an Outdated and Questionable Land Use Plan.


First of all, we must raise our continuing objection to the underlying premise of SEWRPC’s Water Supply Plan, which is based upon the SEWRPC 2035 Regional Land Use Plan (“Land Use Plan”). The Land Use Plan is outdated both in its approach and in its projections.

From the outset, it was clear that the analysis and findings of the Regional Water Supply Study should have been directed by a science-based assessment of the nature and extent of the region’s water resources. Instead, SEWRPC’s Land Use Plan emerged as the driver of the Water Supply Study and, ultimately, the Water Supply Plan, notwithstanding the record’s demonstration of repeated objections by Advisory Committee members, including University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor and hydrogeologist, Doug Cherkauer, and Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent, Carrie Lewis. Of the many assumptions underlying the Land Use Plan and, thereby, the Water Supply Plan, perhaps the most questionable, and most at odds with water resource constraints, is the high increase in growth projected for Waukesha County over the next twenty-five years. Indeed, as reflected in the May 15, 2007 Water Supply Study Advisory Committee meeting minutes, the growth in Waukesha County’s population and housing is projected precisely where water supply sources may least be able to accommodate that growth. At this same meeting, Mr. Biebel, you drew attention to several places in the report, including Chapter IV, where it was noted that water supply conditions identified by the Water Supply Plan may identify a need to refine or revise the 2035 Land Use Plan. We say the time to revise the Land Use Plan is now.

Moreover, this projected growth, dependent as it will be on heavy automobile transit and expanded infrastructure costs, is exactly the kind of sprawl and its attendant costs that national planning experts, intent on reducing our oil dependency and carbon emissions, counsel against. Indeed, this sprawl is already a major contributor to Waukesha’s and Southeastern Wisconsin’s non-compliance with federal ozone and fine particulate air quality standards. Following the existing Land Use Plan will only make this non-compliance situation worse. The result will be significant adverse health impacts on our region’s citizens, including higher rates of asthma and respiratory illness, as well as the prospect of severe economic growth restrictions for our region overall.

While outdated land use planning of this type may not be surprising given that SEWRPC’s Land Use Plan unapologetically rests upon planning principles and plan concepts heralding back to 1966, the citizens and communities in our Southeast Wisconsin region deserve a better—more progressive, intelligent and current—
template for growth and development than what SEWRPC is relying upon and, worse, has predicated its Water Supply Plan upon.

The Water Supply Plan’s reliance on the Land Use Plan as its driver, rather than vice versa, also has resulted in Plan recommendations with little or no relevance to the sustainability of the region’s water resources. For example, whereas the Water Supply Plan asserts that there will be enough water resources to implement the Land Use Plan, at the September 23, 2008 Water Supply Study Advisory Committee meeting, committee member, Doug Cherkauer, pointed to critical areas within the region where this will not be the case, notably, in Oconomowoc and Hartford, where existing problems with base-flow reductions will place Western Waukesha County lakes at risk of being drawn down—promising adverse impacts both to the ecology of the lakes and to the assessed value of the lake properties.

Other examples pointing to the fallibility of the Water Supply Plan’s assumptions regarding sustainability include the Plan’s failure to specifically address or develop plans for the growing population pressures and ongoing environmental concerns in the East Troy/Lake Beulah area. Likewise, the Water Supply Plan fails to take into account the potential cumulative impact of multiple high capacity wells in the region, an omission that is especially concerning given the region’s hydrogeology. Moreover, it is our understanding that more sophisticated models exist, including one recently developed by the USGS and other scientists involved in the SEWRPC Water Supply Study, and would assist considerably in predicting impacts to lakes, streams and wetlands under different development scenarios. It is regrettable that SEWRPC has not taken the time and afforded itself the opportunity to take full advantage of these more sophisticated tools.

Yet another critical assumption on the part of the Water Supply Plan, which pertains both to the Plan’s sustainability findings and the Plan’s recommendation that the City of Waukesha obtain Lake Michigan water, regards its “Strategic Conversion to Lake Michigan as a Source of Water Supply” element. This element assumes that nine communities currently part of MMSD sewage system—including a portion of the City of Brookfield, the City of Cedarburg, the Village of Elm Grove, the Village of Germantown, the Village of Grafton, the Village of Saukville, and the Town of Yorkville, the central portion of the City of New Berlin and the City of Muskego—will convert from wells to Lake Michigan for their water supply. However, this underlying assumption is, at best, unsupported in terms of whether, when and to what extent these other communities, in fact, will agree to move off the deep aquifer for their water supply, especially in view of the present cost differential between Lake Michigan water and existing groundwater supplies.

Recommendation: Given the foregoing, we recommend that the Water Supply Plan’s recommendations concerning the region’s water resources be put on hold until further study is undertaken to provide a complete picture of the region’s water resources in terms of their sustainability in the face of future demands. After this analysis is completed, more realistic findings could be developed and in turn be used to begin the process of revising the Land Use Plan.


II. The Water Supply Plan Fails to Evaluate or to Call For Further Study of Critical Environmental Impacts to Receiving Lake Michigan Tributary Waters Identified as Recommended Alternatives.

Despite the Water Supply Plan’s description and recommendations concerning the three outlined return-flow alternatives enabling a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha, the Plan plainly fails to assess a wide array of important questions relating to potential water quality and ecosystem impacts that could result from implementation of the recommended alternatives. Contrary to the meaning suggested by the title of the Plan’s Chapter IX, “Alternative Plan Comparative Evaluation and Selection of Initially Preferred Plan,” the evaluation of alternatives is sorely lacking in terms of return-flow impacts on receiving tributaries.

Recommendation: Any proper “comparative evaluation” as intended by the Great Lakes Compact would, at the very least, compare return flow impacts to the tributary streams being contemplated as potential recipients of return flow discharges, including both Underwood Creek and the Root River. At the very least, a proper comparative evaluation would also examine the relative impacts of developing a separate pipe and treatment system for direct discharge to Lake Michigan or of hooking up to the current MMSD system. Taking just one of these scenarios—the alternative of returning water back to Lake Michigan through Underwood Creek—would at a minimum require SEWRPC to examine the following areas of inquiry bearing upon water quality, water quantity and cost considerations before reaching any specific recommendations as part of the Water Supply Plan:

1. Are total loading of nutrients and other pollutants to Underwood Creek and Lake Michigan being considered in the permitting process?

2. What effluent limits would Waukesha need to meet to discharge to a restored Underwood Creek that fully meets the fishable and swimmable goals of the Clean Water Act? Who will be monitoring the effects of this effluent on downstream waterways?

3. What impacts might increased flows of Waukesha wastewater in Underwood Creek have on creek restoration efforts underway now or being planned by MMSD, the city of Wauwatosa, Milwaukee County Parks, and others? How would returning flow to Underwood Creek affect the ability of parties to remove concrete channelization in the future?

4. Do the assumptions used about Underwood Creek’s capacity to absorb more flow take into consideration extreme run-off events of the kind seen in recent years?

5. What are the impacts of the treated wastewater on water quality of Underwood Creek, which is currently a variance water? Will monitoring be conducted to ensure that this effluent is not having a negative effect on downstream receiving waters?

6. Does Underwood Creek, as a receiving water, contain the same base flow available in the Fox River to dilute pollutants to acceptable levels that ensure compliance with water quality standards?

7. What data exists showing the concentration or loading of each regulated pollutant in the receiving stream prior to addition of the Waukesha effluent?

8. How would the proposed discharge of wastewater impact existing efforts to create a Watershed Restoration Plan for the Menomonee River?

9. Given Underwood Creek’s status as one of the flashiest streams in Wisconsin, what are the impacts of the return flow on the safety of local residents and fishermen, especially during high flow events?

10. It is estimated that returning Waukesha’s diversion water would increase the daily flow of Underwood Creek by 39%.

a. What steps will need to be undertaken to prevent erosion?
b. Who will pay for inevitable erosion damage/repair work?


III. The Water Supply Plan Recommendations Fail to Comply with Key Provisions of the Great Lakes Compact in the Absence of Act 227 Rule-Making

For like reasons, the Water Supply Plan fails to address, much less satisfy, key provisions of the recently enacted Great Lakes Compact or those of Act 227, Wisconsin’s statutory implementation of the Compact. Specifically, SEWRPC’s Water Supply Plan’s recommendations concerning water conservation and the three outlined return-flow alternatives regarding a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha raise critical issues pertaining to the Great Lakes Compact and Act 227 implementation in the absence of DNR rule-making, including the following:

• How does a return flow alternative that is not continuous but, rather, sporadic and spaced over the course of many months, even years, conform with the legal requirements for the Great Lakes Compact?

• With respect to the return flow alternative described immediately above, how would return flow to Lake Michigan be monitored? Over what interval? Daily? Monthly? Yearly? A five-year average? How will this be regulated to conform with the Great Lakes Compact?

• How does a return flow alternative that includes the option of discharging Lake Michigan water into the Fox River and thereby the Mississippi River basin (during a two-year storm event or greater and during low flow in the Fox River) conform with the legal requirements of the Great Lakes Compact?

• How does a return flow alternative that will, according to Waukesha Water Utility officials, include substantial quantities (20%) of infiltration and inflow (I & I) water from the Mississippi River basin in its calculations of return flow volume back to Lake Michigan conform with the legal requirements of the Great Lakes Compact?

• How does the conservation program of the City of Waukesha, referenced and relied upon in the Water Supply Study’s recommendations, conform with the legal requirements of the Great Lakes Compact? Where in the Study is there an examination of the following pertinent questions:

a. What water savings have been documented from the start of the City’s water conservation program?
b. What water savings can be tied directly to the City’s conservation measures as opposed, for example, to an increase in precipitation?
c. How does I & I water factor into the City’s conservation program?
d. What additional measures are committed to?
e. What conservation measures have been rejected and on what basis?
f. If a diversion is approved to Waukesha, will the city’s water conservation programs be continued? If so, how will its compliance be monitored?

• In view of the Water Supply Plan’s failure to examine critical water quantity and water quality considerations as described in Section II above, how do any of the return flow alternatives outlined in the SEWRPC Water Supply Plan conform with the legal requirements of the Great Lakes Compact and Act 227, specifically the latter’s provision that the applicant, in returning water to the source watershed, must document that “[t]he returned water will be treated to protect and sustain the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the receiving waters, including consideration of the impacts of temperature, nutrient loading and flow regimes” ?

Recommendation: It is in view of the above questions—which go to the heart of the Great Lake Compact’s regional review process and whose resolution is absolutely dependent upon the Wisconsin DNR’s rule-making responsibility—we recommend SEWRPC hold off completion of its Water Supply Plan until Wisconsin has rules in place to guide SEWRPC’s recommended alternatives in keeping with the legal requirements of the Compact and Act 227.

Thank you for your attention to the foregoing matters of concern relating to the Preliminary Regional Water Supply Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin. We are hopeful that SEWRPC will commit to undertake the additional studies and efforts, identified above, as required to fulfill the Plan’s necessary scope and purpose.

Sincerely,


Jodi Habush Sinykin, Of Counsel
Midwest Environmental Advocates

Submitted on behalf of the following people and organizations:

Ecology Association of New Berlin
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
New Berlin Land Conservancy
1000 Friends of Wisconsin
State Representative Cory Mason
Sixteenth Street Community Health Center
The Great Waters Group Sierra Club
Waukesha County Environmental Action League
Wisconsin Great Lakes Coalition
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation