The Waukesha County Environmental Action League (WEAL), active for decades in that city's long struggle with water supply matters, has filed with the city formal comments on the plan to divert Lake Michigan water as a replacement for well water.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
You can read the comments at the top of the group's website. here.
The organization has solid status to make its observations, as many of its members are the very water rate payers who will bear the cost of the plan - - preliminarily estimated at $164 million.
And, as the comments points out, there will be more costs borne as water is diverted into undeveloped areas outside the city's current boundaries, triggering the need for services and infrastructure.
WEAL is raising red flags about the plan that have been minimized by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the body that has sanctioned Waukesha's extension of water service to a fresh 17.5 square miles of land to the west and south where homes on lots of an acre to an acre and a half are the preferred model.
The regional planners attitude to the issues raised by sending Lake Michigan water to a new area equal to 80% of Waukesha's current water service territory: "Much ado about nothing."
And, as WEAL notes in its comments, Waukesha wants permission to divert far, far more water than its current average daily use - - though Waukesha says its water consumption is down and has made ordinance and rate changes to enforce conservation.
So why the large requested increase in water acquisition?
Diverting water outside of the Great Lakes basin to coordinate with new development is hardly the intent of the Great Lakes Compact, which is a water management and conservation agreement.
And, as WEAL points out, will have environmental and infrastructure costs that are not in the interest of people in Waukesha who pay the freight.
WEAL notes there is a mere seven days between the end of the formal comment period and the Waukesha Common Council scheduled vote on April 8th to move the diversion application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the first level of review.
The application's approval at the Council meeting next Thursday is a given.
So is, I predict, the damaging, even fatal disapproval by one or more Great Lakes states later this year or next because of the very substantive and procedural gaps in the application that WEAL and others have formally and carefully noted.
But full speed ahead, regardless of the consequences, has been Waukesha's plan of attack ever since it tried a few years ago to secretly win diversion permission from Gov. Doyle - - a move he and his administration deflected.
Full speed ahead, even though::
1. SEWRPC's overall water supply plan recommendations are still in draft form;
2. Its socio-economic analysis, which might help guide negotiations between Waukesha and Milwaukee during water sale contract talks to start soon, is also not complete.
3. The DNR chose not to write administrative rules outlining what a diversion application under the Great Lakes Compact should contain - - yet will review the application and forward it on to the other seven Great Lakes states, where their unanimous approval must be won.
And, I am told, where other states have yet to write their administrative rules governing how to proceed with an application when it arrives
WEAL says Waukesha has not adequately considered supply alternatives, nor provided detailed cost and other data in the draft application.
It is signaling for all to see that the application isn't ready for prime time.
Everyone knows this is the application and process that will set the precedent for other diversions to come.
Talk about sailing into uncharted waters.
Is anyone at Waukesha City Hall listening?